Homelessness Response Plan

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Addressing the growing impacts of homelessness is a top priority at the City of Vancouver.

While Clark County remains the lead agency in addressing the systemic issue of homelessness in the region, the city has a plan to address its immediate impacts to community health, cleanliness, and safety, including:

  • Garbage, trash and clutter in public spaces
  • Residents living in tents/vehicles in public rights-of-way
  • Livability concerns for the unhoused, including the removal of barriers to accessing services

What is the City Doing Now?

We estimate that more than 500 people are currently living in tents or vehicles in Vancouver. Below is a snapshot of the City’s current efforts to mitigate the safety, cleanliness and health impacts of homelessness.

Current Strategy

About

Mail Service

Mail services provided five days a week through partnership with Outsider’s Inn.

Sanitation Sites

Portable toilets, hand washing stations and garbage service at six campsite locations.

Talkin’ Trash

Share Vancouver program, with funding support and coordination with the city, picks up 20 tons of trash monthly.

HART

City’s Homeless Assistance & Resources Team (HART) provides outreach and referrals to appropriate services for individuals experiencing homelessness and provides assessment for cleanup and sanitation needs.

Camp Cleanups

Seven cleanups conducted since March 2020, resulting in more than 48 tons of solid waste removed. Residents also receive support service referrals.

Safe Park Zone

A safe location for people living in their vehicles to park during the pandemic. The site currently hosts 44 vehicles serving 70 adults and 10 children.

What’s Next?

The plan strategies are designed to help alleviate the negative impacts of homelessness to the housed and unhoused:

Strategy

About

Expand Talkin’ Trash

Expand team and scope to include intentional outreach and engagement in camps, and increased litter pick up.

Expand HART

  • Contract with Columbia River Mental Health to add Street Treatment Team
  • Additional team members include a certified mental health and substance use disorder professional, a professional to address minor medical needs, a peer-support counselor or outreach worker to connect people to housing and other needed resources, and a licensed professional with the ability to prescribe medications.
  • This team will provide proactive engagement, not crisis response.

Add More Safe Park Locations

Locate other properties or partner with other entities for additional 24/7 Safe Park capacity (for residents living in cars or RVs).

Establish Supported Campsites

Supported campsites to ensure clean, safe and healthy conditions for housed and unhoused:

  • Limit to 20 tents or camps per site.
  • Contract with nonprofit(s) to host and support camps.
  • Provide fencing, sanitation and garbage services.
  • Community based services can be provided on site.

We Need Your Ideas!

  • Share your ideas: We welcome constructive and positive feedback to help improve conditions for both our housed and unhoused residents.
  • Share your stories: Tell us how you have been impacted.
  • Ask a question: Send City staff a question.

Addressing the growing impacts of homelessness is a top priority at the City of Vancouver.

While Clark County remains the lead agency in addressing the systemic issue of homelessness in the region, the city has a plan to address its immediate impacts to community health, cleanliness, and safety, including:

  • Garbage, trash and clutter in public spaces
  • Residents living in tents/vehicles in public rights-of-way
  • Livability concerns for the unhoused, including the removal of barriers to accessing services

What is the City Doing Now?

We estimate that more than 500 people are currently living in tents or vehicles in Vancouver. Below is a snapshot of the City’s current efforts to mitigate the safety, cleanliness and health impacts of homelessness.

Current Strategy

About

Mail Service

Mail services provided five days a week through partnership with Outsider’s Inn.

Sanitation Sites

Portable toilets, hand washing stations and garbage service at six campsite locations.

Talkin’ Trash

Share Vancouver program, with funding support and coordination with the city, picks up 20 tons of trash monthly.

HART

City’s Homeless Assistance & Resources Team (HART) provides outreach and referrals to appropriate services for individuals experiencing homelessness and provides assessment for cleanup and sanitation needs.

Camp Cleanups

Seven cleanups conducted since March 2020, resulting in more than 48 tons of solid waste removed. Residents also receive support service referrals.

Safe Park Zone

A safe location for people living in their vehicles to park during the pandemic. The site currently hosts 44 vehicles serving 70 adults and 10 children.

What’s Next?

The plan strategies are designed to help alleviate the negative impacts of homelessness to the housed and unhoused:

Strategy

About

Expand Talkin’ Trash

Expand team and scope to include intentional outreach and engagement in camps, and increased litter pick up.

Expand HART

  • Contract with Columbia River Mental Health to add Street Treatment Team
  • Additional team members include a certified mental health and substance use disorder professional, a professional to address minor medical needs, a peer-support counselor or outreach worker to connect people to housing and other needed resources, and a licensed professional with the ability to prescribe medications.
  • This team will provide proactive engagement, not crisis response.

Add More Safe Park Locations

Locate other properties or partner with other entities for additional 24/7 Safe Park capacity (for residents living in cars or RVs).

Establish Supported Campsites

Supported campsites to ensure clean, safe and healthy conditions for housed and unhoused:

  • Limit to 20 tents or camps per site.
  • Contract with nonprofit(s) to host and support camps.
  • Provide fencing, sanitation and garbage services.
  • Community based services can be provided on site.

We Need Your Ideas!

  • Share your ideas: We welcome constructive and positive feedback to help improve conditions for both our housed and unhoused residents.
  • Share your stories: Tell us how you have been impacted.
  • Ask a question: Send City staff a question.
  • Supportive Campsites Ordinance Advances to Public Hearing Sept. 20

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    On Monday, Sept. 13, City Council voted 6-1 to amend Section 8.22.070.B.2(b) of the City’s camping code, moving both ordinance options forward to a public hearing and second reading on Monday, Sept. 20, 2021.

    Revisions to Chapter 8.22 of the Vancouver Municipal Code related to camping are necessary to implement the supportive campsites component of the City's Homelessness Response Plan.

    Community members who want to share feedback on the ordinance options can register here: https://www.cityofvancouver.us/citycouncil/webform/register-provide-council-meeting-testimony.

    >> Read the full staff report about the proposed ordinance changes.

    Monday's City Council meeting starts at 6:30 p.m. This meeting is not open to in-person attendance due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Councilmembers and City staff will attend remotely.

    Community members can watch the workshops and meetings live on Clark/Vancouver Television Comcast cable channels 23/323, online at www.cvtv.org or on the City’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/VancouverUS. The public can also listen to the meeting by telephone by calling 1-877-309-2073 and entering access code 169-338-917 when prompted (credentials unique to this meeting).

    City Council is accepting public comments about the items on its consent and public hearing agendas. Comments can be submitted in writing in advance of the meeting or live via a remote video conferencing platform during the meeting (advance registration required). Instructions for providing comments remotely are included in the meeting agenda.

  • Supportive Campsites Ordinance Goes to City Council Sept. 13

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    City staff will present proposed revisions to the City's camping ordnance to Vancouver City Council for action during its regular meeting on Monday, Sept. 13.

    Revisions to Chapter 8.22 of the Vancouver Municipal Code related to camping are necessary to implement the supportive campsites component of the City's Homelessness Response Plan.

    >> Read the full staff report about the proposed ordinance changes.

    Monday's City Council meeting starts at 6:30 p.m. This meeting is not open to in-person attendance due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Councilmembers and City staff will attend remotely.

    Community members can watch the workshops and meetings live on Clark/Vancouver Television Comcast cable channels 23/323, online at www.cvtv.org or on the City’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/VancouverUS. The public can also listen to the meeting by telephone by calling 1-866-899-4679 and entering access code 717-796-941 when prompted.

    City Council is accepting public comments about the items on its consent and public hearing agendas. Comments can be submitted in writing in advance of the meeting or live via a remote video conferencing platform during the meeting (advance registration required). Instructions for providing comments remotely are included in the meeting agenda.

  • A Message from City Manager Eric Holmes

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    Originally published in the City's email newsletter, Vancouver Connects, on Sept. 1, 2021

    This is a significant time of change for Vancouver: our city is growing, and we are investing in essential services—such as parks, streets, utilities, and public safety—to serve the community. The impacts of the pandemic have been challenging for Vancouver households and businesses, impacting some more than others similarly to what communities across the nation have seen. The overall economic recovery from the pandemic has been stronger than anticipated so far, and assistance from the federal government has helped this happen.

    Through all these dynamics, there is a broad concern about homelessness in Vancouver. Many of us see some of our most vulnerable residents living unsheltered in the heat and cold and needing support and stabilization as they seek a pathway forward. Some are experiencing homelessness because of a lack of affordable housing or employment security, while others struggle with mental illness and substance abuse. As with many other cities, homelessness in Vancouver is reaching crisis proportions.

    The significant humanitarian concerns are compounded with the impact homelessness is having on livability in our community. Our residents’ concerns about safety, trash, waste, fire hazards and more are real, and I share those concerns.

    As we seek ways to address homelessness in Vancouver, it is important to understand the laws around homelessness. In a landmark legal decision that has been upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court (Martin v. Boise, 2019), homeless persons cannot be punished for sleeping outside on public property when there is an absence of adequate alternatives such as shelter space. In Vancouver and Clark County, there is insufficient shelter to house all individuals experiencing homelessness. Consequently, camping in the city—within certain limits—is legal.

    Within this context, and to address the immediate challenges of homelessness, the City of Vancouver is pursuing three approaches simultaneously:

    Establish safe and supported campsites for the most vulnerable: City Council recently endorsed a plan to pilot a temporary supportive campsite program for the next two to three years to address most immediate needs.

    The pilot project envisions supportive campsites at different locations across the city, serving up to 40 people per site (20 individual tents). Managed 24/7 by a nonprofit on-site operator, the campsites will have screening or fencing, will provide sanitation and hygiene services, and will have limited health services on site.

    The process of identifying potential locations for the supportive campsites on publicly owned land throughout the city is underway. Location guidelines include dispersing supportive campsites equitably throughout the city, avoiding areas with heightened economic vulnerability, and availability of public transit. We are engaging with residents, businesses, nonprofits, and other community stakeholders in finding sites that have the best chance of aiding our unhoused residents while mitigating the concerns that commonly surround unmanaged homeless encampments.

    We anticipate the temporary program will facilitate up to three campsites this year, providing support to approximately a quarter of the estimated unsheltered population in Vancouver. The program will not resolve homelessness in our community, but we believe it’s an avenue toward alleviating some of the most severe impacts to people and place.

    The process of shaping the program continues. I encourage you to stay informed on our progress and provide feedback.

    Expand permanent bridge shelter capacity: Through a collaboration between the City of Vancouver, Clark County and the Vancouver Housing Authority, Clark County is opening the first expansion of shelter capacity in decades with Bertha Cain Baugh Place—the conversion of an existing motel into a new 65 bed bridge shelter. The City is seeking further opportunities like this with our partners in Southwest Washington to add capacity to the homeless crisis response system led by Clark County.

    Increase the supply of income-based housing: Affordable and income-based housing continues as a long-term priority for the City. The Affordable Housing Fund passed by voters in 2016 has delivered more than 470 affordable housing units and prevented 796 households from falling into homelessness. In 2020, the City Council passed a new 1/10% sales tax dedicated to affordable housing and services for the most vulnerable such as veterans, seniors, youth, domestic violence survivors and people with disabilities or behavioral health disabilities.

    On Sept. 13, City staff is scheduled to provide the next update to City Council with a first reading of proposed changes to camping ordinances that will allow for the pilot program to advance. The council meeting begins at 6:30 p.m. and you can watch on CVTV or via the City’s Facebook page.

    To learn more about the City’s efforts to address homelessness, ask questions, and share ideas and personal stories, visit www.beheardvancouver.org/homelessness-response.

  • Watch Aug. 2 City Council Workshop on Supportive Campsites

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    Staff briefed Vancouver City Council on the plan for supportive campsites and related changes to the City's camping ordinance at a workshop on Monday, Aug. 2.

    Watch video of the workshop.

  • Vancouver City Council Workshop on Aug. 2

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    Staff will update Vancouver City Council on the City's plan for supported campsites and related changes to the City's camping ordinance during a workshop at 4 p.m. on Monday, Aug. 2.

    The workshop is open to the public and community members can either attend in person at City Hall (415 W. Sixth St.) or watch it live on Comcast cable channel 23. It can also be streamed live or viewed on demand afterwards online at www.cvtv.org or www.facebook.com/VancouverUS. This will be an excellent opportunity to learn more about this component of the City’s Homelessness Response Plan.

    Read the staff memo and view the presentation slides for the workshop.

  • County and City Seek Volunteers for Homelessness Policy Group

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    The Clark County and city of Vancouver councils are recruiting for two volunteers to join a collaborative policy group addressing the issue of homelessness in the community known as the Joint Executive Group.

    The recruitment is for individuals with lived experience with homelessness. Terms would be approximately 12 months with the exact term to be decided at a later date.

    The county and the city approved a memorandum of agreement between the two jurisdictions in October 2020 to enable leaders from both organizations to collaborate on projects and initiatives that will address homelessness and its impacts within the county. The group will make homelessness policy recommendations to the county and city councils.

    Regular meetings will be held at least once per quarter. Additional meetings may be called by majority request of the voting members at a time when quorum and notification requirements are able to be met.

    Anyone interested in applying should send either an email or a letter of interest to Michelle Pfenning, PO Box 5000, Vancouver, WA 98666-5000 or michelle.pfenning@clark.wa.gov. The communications should include why the applicant is interested in serving on the policy group and any pertinent background information.

    Application deadline is 5 pm Friday, Aug. 13, 2021.

  • City Issues Request For Proposals for Supported Campsites & Safe Park Locations

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    The City is currently seeking proposals from organizations interested in operating the supported campsite and Safe Park locations included in the City’s Homelessness Response Plan.

    The Request For Proposals was issued on July 23 and proposals are due by Aug. 11.

    Read the Request For Proposals.

  • Set up a virtual meeting

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    Community organizations and businesses may also request a live virtual meeting with the city to learn more about the plan and provide feedback. Those interested in coordinating a virtual meeting can contact Jamie Spinelli at Jamie.Spinelli@cityofvancouver.us.