Business owner speaks out over lawsuit against city handling homeless tent site

OLYMPIA, Wash. – A city-approved homeless tent camp has been given the green-light to invite more people to move into Olympia’s first-ever ‘mitigation site.’

But Wednesday, for the first time, a local business owner – just one of several suing the city -- is speaking out and explaining why he believes the city is violating its own laws and pushing customers out of the downtown core.

“(I’ve) been looking for years and years for a location downtown,” said business owner Doug Heay. “So I can be a part of the downtown community.”

Heay says a building downtown would have been perfect for his construction business show room. That’s why he said he purchased the facility in early 2018.

The city also opened its first mitigation site right next door to Heay, and he claims the homeless crisis in the south sound city is pushing away customers.

“Clients would be uncomfortable coming down here,” he said.

Heay is one of multiple business owners near the mitigation site who are suing the city of Olympia over its recent handling of the homeless issue. In the past several months, city officials told Q13 News the homeless population has grown quickly.

The city’s plan was to construct the regulated tent city and provide a space where homeless can access to garbage pick-up and toilets, but also provide access to services.

This week a judge also gave the city the greenlight to move forward with the camp.

“It’s safe,” said Mindy Crump from the nearby Union Gospel Mission. Her organization has been tasked with running the mitigation site’s day-to-day operation.

So far the parking lot has room for more than 100 people but on Wednesday only shelters about 70.

“We’re trying to create a place that’s orderly so people might be more likely want to come down and go to these businesses,” said Crump.

But for multiple business owners, not only do they believe the city ignored its own rules about provide proper notice or allowing public input about the mitigation site – some believe this sanctioned site does nothing to tackle a group of people who bring crime into illegal camps.

“I don’t’ think it’s doing anything to take care of the lawlessness that’s taking place by those others who prey on not only us but them,” said Heay.

Court records show while the businesses suing the city claim in part the mitigation site could harbor criminal activity, the city of Olympia believes the sanctioned camp is a way to monitor and regulate issues like public health concerns and crime.

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