Olympia says it will clear camp under Fourth Avenue bridge
A dozen or so residents of Olympia’s most visible homeless camp were given notice this week they will have to move.
The city gave notice Tuesday it plans to clear the camp under the Fourth Avenue bridge Sept. 11 and that all residents and their belongings have to be out by then.
The camp started to grow in March shortly after the city cleared another camp on State Avenue Northeast downtown.
“It went from peace and quiet to chaos,” said a longtime camp resident who gave the name Opie Taylor.
The city responded by adding portable toilets and garbage containers near the site. In June it cleared part of the camp, citing health and safety concerns.
The population fell from about 100 people this spring to about 25 at the start of this week.
City staff handed out information on shelters and other resources along with Tuesday’s notice. Staff at the city’s sanctioned camp on Olympia Avenue Northeast said spots are being held for anyone coming from the Fourth Avenue camp.
Meanwhile, Olympia recently launched a program targeting smaller camps throughout the city in hopes of avoiding this kind of major cleanup.
But Taylor and another man who gave his name as Elvis told The Olympian Thursday that they don’t plan to leave. Since the spring, self-imposed rules such as no fighting and limits on drug use have kept things under control at the site, they said. If they leave, the city will just clear their next camp.
Tye Gundel of the advocacy group Just Housing said her group isn’t encouraging people to violate the city’s order but will support them if they choose to. She said the best option is for Olympia or another municipality to designate legal places to camp.
“When we don’t have another place to bring people to, then the options are limited,” she said. “It’s hard to see an outcome that’s not going to be messy and harmful for everyone involved.”