Vancouver announces new plan to address homelessness

Clark County

The city aims to mitigate the impacts on community health, safety, and cleanliness

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The City of Vancouver has announced a revamped plan to address the local homelessness crisis.

The city aims to mitigate the impacts on community health, safety, and cleanliness to those who are unhoused and to the neighborhoods surrounding them. The new plan will focus on removing garbage, trash and clutter in public spaces, along with working to improve the quality of living and health for those experiencing homelessness.

“We are creating strategies that respond to the urgent needs of everyone impacted by these challenges and this plan moves us in the right direction,” Vancouver Mayor Anne McEnerny-Ogle said.

According to a press release from the city, the new plan involves several main strategies.

One key point of the plan includes establishing between five and 10 small campsites with about 20 tents and up to 40 people throughout the city. Officials say this will help to mitigate negative impacts to neighborhoods and provide services to unhoused residents on-site. The sites would be run by a nonprofit organization and feature bathrooms and garbage services.

“I’m not looking to utilize anyone’s neighborhood parks, I don’t want to put them right next to your house,” said Jamie Spinelli, the City of Vancouver Homeless Response coordinator. “Additionally, I think these will be well managed and small enough that they’re not going to be as impactful as some people might think they will be.”

The city is still accepting public feedback on where the managed campsites should be located.

Furthermore, the city plans to expand its Talking Trash program or develop a similar waste cleanup program, in an effort to increase their trash collection capacity while also incorporating outreach to more unhoused people in the area.

The city’s Homeless Assistance and Response Team will expand as well, in order to further engage with homeless residents and provide healthcare services through Columbia River Mental Health. The city will also be creating more Safe Parking Zones for those living in vehicles to park. The city’s first successful Safe Parking Zone was established in April 2020.

“The Vancouver City Council is committed to taking action to address the significant challenges homelessness has presented in our community,” McEnerny-Ogle said. “This plan is consistent with the council’s values to ensure a healthy, thriving, equitable community that supports the needs of residents and maintains the safety and security of our neighborhoods.”

The city says this plan builds upon the ongoing efforts already in place to address homelessness impacts. The existing efforts provide things such as camp toilets and handwashing sites, along with mail services and ongoing camp cleanups. A local veterinarian also provides free care for people’s pets.

Since March 2020, the City of Vancouver has reportedly removed more than 48 tons of solid waste from camps.

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