PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – If approved by the Vancouver City Council, the newest location of a fourth Safe Stay Community would be at a parking lot owned by the Washington Department of Transportation near Discovery Middle School.

Last week, the school district’s superintendent sent a letter to families to let them know about the city’s virtual information session on Wednesday to address any concerns.

But according to Vancouver Homeless Response Manager Jamie Spinelli, the property is ideal for a fourth Safe Stay site because of its location: There are people already camping nearby and it’s close to public transit.

The very first Safe Stay site opened in 2021 in a fenced area at Northeast 51st Circle and 112th Avenue — about a block from a YMCA and 1.5 miles from an elementary school.

Although nearby residents originally had concerns about the location, Spinelli said calls to police have gone down 30% in the area since its opening.

“The people who live on this site have now just become more eyes and ears for this location, and they want safety and security just like everyone out here does,” she said. “They keep an eye on strange things that might be happening in the neighborhood from outside here….[like] weird cars. They very much understand that kids live around here and they want that to be safe to them as well as themselves…”

Spinelli said they run background checks on potential site residents, and anyone with a sex offender history is not allowed to live at the sites. There’s also a ban on camping around any site. 

Since the first site’s opening, the nearby YMCA and students at the elementary school have chosen to help the folks at the site by making them food and even throwing a holiday party.

Stay with KOIN 6 as this story develops.