Volunteers hike the Olympia Wildwood Trail to collect images, data on homeless camps

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OLYMPIA, Wash. – Volunteers Jim Rainwood and Ruth Milry spent Wednesday morning hiking through pathways along the Olympia Wildwood Trail looking for signs of homeless camps.

Rainwood said he’s been checking on the area for years and volunteers for the city’s parks department collecting data and photographs of the impact; he’s used to finding piles of trash, used needles and human waste.

The Olympia Woodland Trail meanders behind several neighborhoods.

Some neighbors like Milry worry about how many people might be living in the camps -- and she has safety concerns.

“There was a stabbing just within this year so personal safety has become more of a concern,” she said.

Rainwood shares the same concern but he also has a passion for providing any help he can to the homeless community that’s living along the trail.

“Some folks are just down on their luck -- they’re out here, they really still have their act together and they’re trying to move on,” he said. “Some folks have lost everything, including their mind.”

Each month Rainwood and other volunteers trek beyond the beaten path looking for new camps.

Rainwood takes notes, photographs and video,s which he shares with the city's parks department. The agency said it uses the information he collects to identify problem areas and plan cleanups.

City officials also plan to hire more park rangers after voters approved a tax hike last fall. The beefed-up patrols could start in 2017.