Olympia City Manager Jay Burney confirmed that the city is planning to move its homeless mitigation site from Franklin Street SE downtown to Quince St. SE, a decision that had raised several concerns among community members.
In a presentation to the city council last night, Burney recognized that there were complaints regarding the transfer. He assured parents and community members that the city is doing its best to resolve the issue. “Please know that we don’t have any intention of picking up the old mitigation site and setting it down as it is on Quince Street,” he said.
The new site is located near three schools, St. Michael Parish School, Avanti High School, and Madison Elementary School. As a result, several parents and residents expressed their concern that the move will potentially place children at risk. The site is the former location of the Quality Inn motel and is across the parking lot from the Les Schwab Tire Center.
Burney continued, “We see this move as an opportunity to re-tool and re-assess our mitigation site model.” He added, “We intend to keep the things that are working well with the mitigation site residents and neighbors, leaving behind everything that harms everyone’s success.” The city manager noted that they are planning to begin the transfer in the first quarter of 2022.
Several residents, however, disagreed with the city’s decision. In the public hearing, parishioner Matt DeBord spoke on behalf of the St. Michael community. “We want to make it very clear that the current mitigation site would be a very unwelcome addition to the community here at St. Michael’s and it mirrored the small businesses at the gateway of our downtown,” he said.
While the community disagreed with the move, Bord claimed that they are willing to work with the city, “We want to have further conversations on how we can work together to make it mutually beneficial that does not put the children at St. Michael’s at risk.”
Business owner Bill Bode also shared his experiences in dealing with the homeless population. Bode said that as someone who works near the Deschutes Camp Way, he had seen several incidents of prostitution, drug, dealing, and violence. He noted that the situation even reached a point where their employees had to walk in pairs to get to their cars safely.
Bode warned the council, “violence, drug, and general lawlessness ubiquitous with the homeless camps are not and will not be isolated to the mitigation site, but will permeate the entirety of the surrounding area.” He continued, “Our children are also a vulnerable population and our collective priority should be to them. Opening any mitigation site near any school is unconscionable. Relocating folks simply changes the location where these problems exist.”
Erich Ebel, who said he is the father of three school-age children agreed, “Nobody who looks at the failures of the downtown mitigation site should think it would result in any different outcome in an alternate location.”
In addition, Patricia Bracy claimed that staff at nearby Madison and Avanti schools were unaware of the decision. “They are not, and were not aware of this site being used for the homeless.” She added, “it’s a very poor decision in that it puts many people in harm’s way.
Staff at the Les Schwab Tire Center recently told The JOLT about two fires that burned part of their building. Speaking off the record, they expressed concern about their business’ security.
Listening session set for next month
As a result, the city will host an online listening session on Mon., Nov. 8 regarding the issue. Parents and community members are invited to participate in the discussion.
CORRECTION 10/21/21: The Quality Inn was previously misidentified in this story as the Econo Lodge, its previous name.
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