Residents of the Alabama Street homeless encampment will be moved to a secondary location while Longview tackles an extended cleaning of the campsite.
Last week the Longview City Council declared a public health emergency at the campsite because of the unsanitary conditions and expanding piles of refuse. The emergency declaration allows the city to fast-track plans for a cleanup due to the “significant public health and safety issues” posed by the site’s conditions.
City Manager Kurt Sacha said the cleanup process likely will take several weeks as the city sorts through everything left behind at the campsite, so the Alabama Street’s residents will be relocated to a temporary alternate site in the interim. Sacha indicated the city has selected a location for that campsite, but was not willing to officially name it.
“We will be moving people to another site and not just disperse them throughout the community,” Sacha said. “We should be able to announce that here in the near future.”
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Sacha said he hoped Cowlitz County would provide financial support for the upcoming cleaning work, but had not received any official word from the commissioners.
The nonprofit Love Overwhelming is a regular presence at the Alabama Street camp with various forms of aid. Director Chuck Hendrickson agreed about the worsening conditions of the camp, saying garbage and clutter had gotten so bad at sections of the camp that Hendrickson said it was driving some unhoused residents to other parts of Longview.
“There are numerous tents that are dilapidated, so much so the people there packed what they had and left... It needs to be cleaned up,” Hendrickson said.
The shuttle drives Love Overwhelming uses to take homeless people to public showers have increasingly involved trips to smaller, less official campsites across Longview. Hendrickson said tents from residents who moved out have been left behind, as have the belongings of at least one resident who died over the summer.
Longview and Cowlitz County are in the early stages of creating a hosted homeless encampment to replace the Alabama Street site. The camp will be located in Longview, largely funded by the county and will offer case management services and easier cleaning opportunities. County commissioners have delayed signing a memorandum of understanding with the city until a more detailed operations plan is shown to them.
No location for the hosted site has yet been announced, though some city and county officials have called for sites to be named in order to gather public feedback.