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County proposes homeless mitigation site on Carpenter Road near Lacey

A proposal to create a homeless mitigation site on Carpenter Road near Lacey was met with concern Thursday night during a joint meeting of Thurston County Commissioners and Lacey City Council.

And Commissioner Gary Edwards, never one to mince words, was perhaps more blunt than usual.

The proposal for a sanctioned campsite was first discussed by the commissioners in February, County Manager Ramiro Chavez explained at the outset of the meeting.

That discussion began with a site in mind in the Mottman Industrial Park area of Tumwater, but later shifted to an area on Carpenter Road near Martin Way just outside Lacey, he said.

A lot of details still need to be figured out, said Commissioner John Hutchings, including what it will look like, how it will be monitored, what the rules and regulations will be, what will be required in terms of law enforcement, and most important, what it will cost.

But most at the meeting agreed a mitigation site is needed. Lacey Mayor Andy Ryder said homelessness is not just an Olympia problem and that he supports the site because it’s close to transit and the future Lacey Food Bank.

“It’s starting to affect this entire region,” he said.

Commissioner Tye Menser echoed Ryder’s comments and pointed out that there’s a building next to the proposed site that potentially could be turned into a services hub.

Commissioner Edwards expressed support, but only if site is set up to hold the people who live there accountable.

“We need to knock off this enabling business,” he said, adding that “they have chosen a deviant lifestyle, and if we endorse it, and don’t hold them accountable, they will continue to come.”

He hopes the site will help those who need help and can discourage others who have chosen a homeless lifestyle.

“It’s the pits that citizens get ticketed for over parking, but we allow some deadbeat to park there for days,” Edwards said.

Lacey Councilman Jason Hearn thanked the county commissioners for their leadership, but was not enthusiastic about the location.

“The more in town you are, the more it becomes a Holiday Inn versus a mitigation center,” he said.

Lacey Councilman Lenny Greenstein acknowledged the need for solutions but also a destination that produces results.

“If we’re not going to hold them accountable, it will serve zero purposes,” he said. “It has to have the proper services and there has to be a time limit. It can’t be a long-term enabling situation.”

So, what’s next?

Ryder suggested a subcommittee be formed with representatives from all jurisdictions that want to be involved.

Lacey Councilman Michael Steadman also reminded the group to include residents and business owners in the discussion. He also asked that they stop stigmatizing people who are homeless.

“We create that stigma and we need to get rid of that and focus on services for that particular group,” he said. “We’re all people.”

Thursday’s joint work session was not televised or streamed online, but County Manager Chavez said audio of the meeting was recorded.

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