With summer approaching, City of Longview officials say they still don’t have a plan to relocate homeless people staying at the Lions Shelter at Lake Sacajawea.
About six people camped out under the shelter late Thursday morning, some wrapped in blankets, one in a small tent. Shopping carts full of belongings were parked where picnic tables used to be.
City Manager Kurt Sacha said there is no immediate plan to establish somewhere else for homeless people to stay or to ask them to leave the shelter. Anyone is allowed to be at the park until curfew begins at 10 p.m.
Many homeless people staying at the shelter have said they began staying there after police broke up other camps in the county last summer.
“There is an ongoing dialogue regarding homelessness with various groups trying to find a longer-term solution,” Sacha said.
Sacha said a committee to address homelessness was created in January but hasn’t met for a couple months. However, he said, he is meeting with community leaders to discuss alternatives for the cold-weather shelter for the upcoming cold-weather season.
Love Overwhelming’s severe weather shelter shut down before winter was over because of neighbors’ complaints and the city’s denial of funding.
Over the winter, dozens of people filtered through the picnic shelter during the day. Most left before the 10 p.m. curfew, which the city imposed in September, citing threats against people staying at the shelter.
The picnic shelter still is available to rent for private or community events, but Sacha said it would need to be cleaned first. So far there’s little interest in using it this summer, he said.
“We have heard because of peoples’ perception and what they’re seeing, they just feel that it’s a place that’s not very inviting and are staying away from it,” Sacha said.
Jennifer Wills, parks and recreation director, said she wants more people to use the shelter and its surroundings. She said it’s current state is “saddening.”
Anyone wishing to rent the picnic shelter should give the department a “large heads up” to give staff time to clean it up, she said.
Parks and Recreation employees removed the tables and cleaned the shelter on Jan. 14. The tables haven’t been returned yet because they were vandalized while out at Roy Morris Park, where they had been repaired, Wills said.
The department will likely do a “full cleaning” of the shelter once the tables go back in, she said.
Park employees clean the shelter and bathrooms twice a day, Wills said.
The Longview Lions Clubs remodeled the shelter in 2017. Doug Harvey, chair of the project, said it’s sad to see the state of the shelter after putting so much work into it.
“People aren’t going to want to picnic in a place like that. That’s disappointing,” Harvey said.
The group also installed a stone bench near the shelter. A piece of the backrest was broken off within the last six months, Harvey said. He said he would like to replace the backrest but not until the city or community finds a solution to the problem.
“I would love to see the problem resolved,” Harvey said.