PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Due to the “significant increase” in Vancouver’s homeless population over the past year, city leaders have declared a homelessness emergency.
Vancouver City Council officially ratified the emergency declaration Monday, just three days after City Manager Eric Holmes announced it.
According to officials, the new declaration comes after the growing homeless population has exhausted city resources.
Since 2022, Clark County has seen a 54% hike in residents experiencing ‘chronic homelessness’ and a 78% hike in residents experiencing ‘chronic unsheltered homelessness’ — and Homeless Response Manager Jamie Spinelli says 78% of Clark County’s houseless population resides in Vancouver.
“Despite [the] City’s funding of housing development, development incentives, eviction prevention, diversion, rental assistance, shelter, and other supportive services, chronic unsheltered homelessness continues to drastically and rapidly increase at a rate that has become unmanageable utilizing standard City processes and existing tools,” Spinelli wrote in a staff report.
During a 10-week point-in-time count conducted over the summer, Vancouver’s Homeless Assistance and Resource Team found that 48% of the population was homeless before relocating to the city. Of that population, 66% had lived there for less than a year and 17% for less than 30 days.
Officials attributed Vancouver’s growing homeless population to the changing policies in other cities and jurisdictions. According to the homeless response manager, residents from other areas of Clark County and Washington state say they’ve been “run out of town” by law enforcement and public employees.
Additionally, Spinelli alleged that houseless Portlanders had relocated to the neighboring city in hopes “to be left alone” or “to avoid being ‘forced into a giant camp.’”
The Vancouver official also mentioned “recent behavioral shifts” among the homeless population — including an uptick in violence and drug-related activity even for people who weren’t known to be opioid users.
In response, City Manager Holmes has issued one emergency order that allocates additional funding for homelessness and a second order that will close up to 48 acres of publicly-owned property being used as a homeless camp.
“While not all actions need the declaration, this mechanism will give us the agility we need to take action quickly as we continue to develop effective outreach-led, enforcement-backed solutions,” Holmes said in a statement.
This is the first homelessness emergency declaration in the history of Vancouver.