‘Thankful for this’: Vancouver’s 1st Safe Stay spot opens

Clark County

Modular pods officially opening Thursday

VANCOUVER, Wash. (KOIN) — An area once filled with a homeless camp tents, garbage, rampant drug use and othe health issues is now the side of Vancouver’s first Safe Stay community.

The fenced-in area at NE 51st Circle off NE 112th is now filled with 20 modular shelters with heat and electricity, similar to other small pod locations in Portland and Salem.

Neighbors complained the area was unsafe before, Vancouver’s Homeless Response Coordinator Jamie Spinelli said. And while some still aren’t happy this Safe Stay community has replaced it, others are hopeful it will make a big difference to those who need help transitioning into permanent housing.

About 35 people were living in the homeless camp before. Most are now choosing to move into the pods beginning Thursday. The site will be staffed around-the-clock by the non-profit Outsiders Inn.

“I think particularly since this exact location was a giant camp prior to, there’s a very clear visual of the difference in what life was like last Christmas and what life will be like this Christmas,” Spinelli said.

Debbie Maddox, who has been homeless for 3 years, said she and her boyfriend will move into one of the modular shelters together. That’s something they can’t do elsewhere because there are no couples shelters in Clark County.

Debbie Maddox is one of the first people moving into Vancouver’s Safe Stay community, December 21, 2021 (KOIN)

It means a lot to have a warm, safe place to stay right before the holidays, she said.

“Just mostly being out of the cold, that’s what we’re excited about,” Maddox told KOIN 6 News. “We are thankful for this place.”

People can live here as long as they need to get back on their feet, but the goal is to help get them into permanent housing, officials said.

The City of Vancouver hopes to open 2 more communities like this before Summer 2022, but no locations are set at this time.

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