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Businesses sue City of Olympia for how it handles homeless problem

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OLYMPIA, Wash. – We now know the names of the businesses who filed a lawsuit against the city of Olympia over the growing homeless problem there.  Zeigler Welding, Aztec Bowling, and C & H Construction are all suing the city for opening a sanctioned encampment and not utilizing current laws like trespassing and nuisance laws to combat crimes committed by some people who are homeless.

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Unsanctioned homeless encampment growing under the 4th Ave Bridge in Olympia.

Lined with tents, the Olympia city-sanctioned encampment is full of tenants like 30-year-old Melissa Stevens.

“It’s helping me move up into an apartment,” said Stevens.

She says she’s been clean off meth for eight years.  She says she’d rather be at the sanctioned encampment off Franklin Street than at a shelter.

“Most all the time the shelters are always full; always full and don’t have room,” said Stevens.

But some in Olympia have chosen the streets to call home right next door to Zeigler’s Welding, Aztec Bowling, and C & H Construction.  Attorney Jon Cushman says the city allows homeless people to do whatever they want at the expense of businesses and residents.

“Riffed with drug use, crime, prostitution, needles everywhere, and a lot of associated crime and vandalism,” said Cushman.

Cushman says the city isn’t enforcing current laws and bypassed city code to open this sanctioned encampment off Franklin Street where Stevens now lives.

“It’s what the city failed to do first of all. They failed to enforce the law. Trespass laws and nuisance laws…instead, they took a hands-off position and the problem grew and grew,” said Cushman.

But when the businesses filed suit…

“After we filed our lawsuit, they abated two of the camps,” said Cushman.

But once both of those unsanctioned encampments closed, Cushman says some homeless people just moved under the 4th Avenue bridge only showing how much the problem is growing.

“Shutdown the camp under 4th Avenue bridge. Shutdown the camp under I-5. Shutdown the camp at the jungle. The city could shut them all down,” said Cushman.

City leaders tell Q13 they can’t comment on pending litigation.  However, a flyer found at City Hall about the city’s sanctioned encampment reads in-part, “This is not a permanent end state.  This step will help facilitate safety, public health, dignity, along with improved enforcement of camping and behaviors in the Downtown core and other areas.  The City is currently looking to establish a second mitigation site outside of Downtown for temporary and safe camping.”

Stevens says sanctioned encampments give homeless people a place to go and actually help businesses.

“I would like to not see homeless people sleep in front of businesses and have the cops always bothering them,” said Stevens.

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