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Longview council to review public health emergency for homeless encampment Tuesday night

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Alabama Street camp gravel

The city of Longview filled the muddy entrance of the Alabama Street homeless camp with gravel in 2021. The council is considering another cleanup at the site soon.

Longview staff are asking the council to issue a public health emergency for the homeless campsite on Alabama Street because waste is accumulating in the area.

City Manager Kurt Sacha requested the emergency declaration in a letter to council on Monday, and the Longview City Council are scheduled to vote on whether to OK the declaration during its Tuesday night meeting.

If passed, the emergency declaration would take effect immediately and allow the city to make immediate decisions around the campsite. Sacha’s letter states “the stockpile of garbage presents an imminent threat to the public health of encampment residents.”

However, the resolution council is scheduled to vote on discusses more than just cleaning the area.

The resolution says the declaration would also provide “exemptions from competitive bidding requirements” to hire contractors and has been used by other West Coast cities, like Seattle and Portland, to expedite new shelters or emergency services.

“City staff and I have developed a course of action to remediate the existing encampment area in an effort to protect and enhance the health and safety of all area residents,” Sacha writes in the letter to council. At press time Tuesday evening, Sacha had not responded to The Daily News’ request for additional details about that course of action.

Some city councilmembers have been discussing ramping up deadlines to create a hosted encampment in the city for people currently living in tents or vehicles. A Longview committee aiming to find a group to manage the site recently said they were hoping for a late-September deadline, then late-November deadline to have a hosted encampment running.

Additional decisions from that committee are expected to be discussed at the council meeting Tuesday night.

The new emergency declaration comes almost exactly one year since Sacha and the City Council declared a similar public health emergency at the campsite in August 2021, which led to the city temporarily moving the camp and performing an extensive cleanup of the Alabama Street site.

In his letter to the council, Sacha said the previous emergency declaration was potentially still in effect, but that he wanted to renew the decision to “give the present Council the opportunity to review the action.” Some councilmembers were not on the council during the previous declaration.

This would be the third emergency declaration the Longview City Council has made related to homelessness since 2018, when the council approved an emergency curfew in city parks to ban people from setting up tents by Lake Sacajawea.

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