The Longview City Council unanimously extended its moratorium on new emergency shelters for the third time Thursday night in front of a packed room at City Hall with more than 100 citizens in attendance.
Longview council members first enacted the six-month moratorium in October 2015. The council extended it Thursday while ad hoc committee members were still determining the zoning where they would like to see shelters sited.
“We have come a long way,” said Councilman Steve Moon, a member of the ad hoc committee. “I feel that we’re pretty close, kind of wrapping up the definitions, and buffers, and all the other issues that we have discovered.”
More than 20 citizens spoke during the public hearing on the moratorium, the vast majority in favor of it. Many citizens who have attended the ad hoc committee meetings on emergency shelters have appealed to the members to “get it right” the first time. Members of the public listed a number of concerns including housing values, drug abuse on the streets and safety concerns for children.
“I’m tired of needles in the parks,” said Spencer Boudreau, a student at Mark Morris High School in Longview. “I’m tired of seeing this community get a bad rep.”
“There’s still unanswered questions,” Port of Longview Commissioner Jeff Wilson said. “That alone is enough to caution to let the process continue because it is unfinished.”
City Attorney Jim McNamara cautioned the public not to talk about Love Overwhelming and encouraged citizens only to address the moratorium, which would “unfairly prejudice the process” should the organization become a city land use applicant.
Despite the warning, some who supported the LO shelter spoke with concerns about the moratorium and restrictions that would cause more barriers for the homeless to seek shelter.
Erika Quizros, a Kelso resident, said there is a misunderstanding about the population who lives at Love Overwhelming and passionately asked council to support “the most vulnerable” before they’re instead housed in worse alternatives.
“If you provide for people with basic needs — the basic need for shelter, the basic need for food, the basic need for community … it frees them to be the best of who they are,” Quizros said. “Please, let’s conclude this matter and support this population. They need us.”
The Love Overwhelming shelter faces closure by the end of the month, when Cowlitz County commissioners want to purchase the building on 304 Cowlitz Way. The county will not officially buy the Kelso building unless it’s completely cleared out.
The moratorium would have expired April 15 had the council not extended it for another six months. But Community Development Director John Brickey has said that the building Love Overwhelming purchased was also not properly zoned for shelters.
A group of Love Overwhelming supporters on Tuesday also attended the commissioners meeting to see the shelter closed by the end of the month and appeal to the officials to postpone the organization’s move-out date.
Another group of citizens attended the council meeting to oppose an ordinance that would have reinstated use of an insecticide, Imidacloprid, to treat aphid infestations. Council members rejected the ordinance before it was even put to a vote.