South Sound city warns homeless camp of upcoming sweep

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Dozens of homeless people living in an unsanctioned homeless camp were given less than a week to leave a tent site in downtown Olympia.

City officials say health and safety concerns are forcing them to sweep the site at Franklin Street and State Avenue.

Fliers posted on Wednesday warning everyone living in what’s called the Smart Lot that it’s time to pack up and move.

“Our goal is to create a safe downtown,” said the city’s homeless response coordinator, Colin DeForrest.

Conditions at this city owned parking lot has turned unsafe for everyone, said DeForrest.

“There are rats everywhere, you’ll see used needles,” he said. “We brought down bathrooms, the bathrooms are overflowing.”

“I was in that parking lot for 5 months,” said Bianca Dunmire. “Nobody has to be responsible.”

Dunmire says she is now living in a tent at the city’s approved mitigation site. She described the unsanctioned location as being unsafe.

“There’s not enough going on down there that’s structured to give us help,” she said. “The structure is what’s allowing people to get help at the mitigation site.”

By next Tuesday everyone should be moved out of the smart lot. DeForrest says 10 people have been moved into the city’s tiny home village near Plumb Street.

That should open up availability for other people experiencing homelessness to enter the mitigation site and find access to services.

Officials say the unsanctioned camp isn’t safe like the mitigation site where warming centers, security guards and structure help guide homeless into temporary housing.

“There are deep corners in that site where we have no idea what’s going on,” said DeForrest.

Officials say they are in the early planning stages of setting up a second mitigation site, which could be in Olympia or elsewhere in Thurston County.

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