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 a partnership with Outsiders Inn. Learn more.

Sanitation Sites

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

Talkin’ Trash

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

HART

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

Camp Cleanups

The City has completed 14 camp cleanups since February 2021. Camp residents also receive support service referrals as part of the cleanup effort.

Safe Parking Zone

The City established a safe location for people living in their vehicles to park during the pandemic. The site has parking spaces for over 50 vehicles and serves more than 60 people. Learn more.

Safe Stay Community

On Dec. 23, 2021, the City of Vancouver opened its first Safe Stay Community, providing the most vulnerable in the community with warm, dry and secure surroundings where they have access to high-quality, compassionate life-saving and social services while they work to transition out of homelessness. Site features:

  • 20 modular Pallet shelters housing up to 40 people
  • Fenced and staffed 24/7 by nonprofit operator Outsiders Inn
  • Trash receptacles, sanitation services, portable toilets and handwashing stations
  • Meeting and office spaces and access to supportive services provided by local agencies

What’s Next?

The planned 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 Parking Locations

Locate more properties or partner with other entities to provide additional 24/7 Safe Parking sites for residents living in cars or RVs.

Establish Safe Stay Communities (formerly referred to as supportive campsites)

Supportive Safe Stay Communities will help ensure clean, safe and healthy conditions for housed and unhoused:

  • Limit to 20 modular Pallet shelters per site
  • Contract with nonprofit operator to staff each site 24/7
  • Provide fencing, sanitation and garbage services
  • Community-based services can be provided on site

Get Involved!

Provide input, ideas, comments and questions using the engagement tools below:

  • 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.
  • Provide comments on specific Safe Stay Community locations as they are announced and register for associated information sessions.

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 a partnership with Outsiders Inn. Learn more.

Sanitation Sites

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

Talkin’ Trash

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

HART

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

Camp Cleanups

The City has completed 14 camp cleanups since February 2021. Camp residents also receive support service referrals as part of the cleanup effort.

Safe Parking Zone

The City established a safe location for people living in their vehicles to park during the pandemic. The site has parking spaces for over 50 vehicles and serves more than 60 people. Learn more.

Safe Stay Community

On Dec. 23, 2021, the City of Vancouver opened its first Safe Stay Community, providing the most vulnerable in the community with warm, dry and secure surroundings where they have access to high-quality, compassionate life-saving and social services while they work to transition out of homelessness. Site features:

  • 20 modular Pallet shelters housing up to 40 people
  • Fenced and staffed 24/7 by nonprofit operator Outsiders Inn
  • Trash receptacles, sanitation services, portable toilets and handwashing stations
  • Meeting and office spaces and access to supportive services provided by local agencies

What’s Next?

The planned 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 Parking Locations

Locate more properties or partner with other entities to provide additional 24/7 Safe Parking sites for residents living in cars or RVs.

Establish Safe Stay Communities (formerly referred to as supportive campsites)

Supportive Safe Stay Communities will help ensure clean, safe and healthy conditions for housed and unhoused:

  • Limit to 20 modular Pallet shelters per site
  • Contract with nonprofit operator to staff each site 24/7
  • Provide fencing, sanitation and garbage services
  • Community-based services can be provided on site

Get Involved!

Provide input, ideas, comments and questions using the engagement tools below:

  • 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.
  • Provide comments on specific Safe Stay Community locations as they are announced and register for associated information sessions.

Have a question for City Staff?

Do you have a question about our response to homelessness? Ask it here!

City staff will respond to your questions as quickly as possible. 

In most cases, your question and our answer will be visible to all users after we respond to it. Should we need to ask a clarifying, follow-up question, we may respond to you privately instead.

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    All along the streets and especially the freeways there is tons of litter. Entering Vancouver along i5 the first thing you notice is the trash. Making the turn onto sr500 east from i5 looks like a dump. It’s the same for many spots along our freeways. Side streets see more of the same. I’ve never seen so much litter. Is this going to be picked up? Whoever is in charge of freeway cleanup needs to step it up

    Rtpducks16 asked about 2 months ago

    Thanks for your question. Litter removal along state highways and interstates is managed by the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT), not the City of Vancouver. You learn more about WSDOT's litter removal programs at https://wsdot.wa.gov/construction-planning/protecting-environment/litter-state-highways, or you can call WSDOT's Southwest Region HQ here in Vancouver with questions at 360-905-2000. 

    Until recently, state law did not allow non-state workers to remove litter long highways and interstates. The state Legislature changed that law this year and voted to fund additional litter removal efforts across the state. Earlier this year, the City received a $40,000 grant from this litter cleanup funding that we used to remove nearly 1,400 pounds of litter from multiple I-5 on- and off-ramps in Vancouver over the last month or so. You can read more about that effort here: https://www.cityofvancouver.us/publicworks/page/city-vancouver-effort-clears-1380-pounds-litter-along-highway-ramps 

    The City also funds the Talkin' Trash program, which is operated by the local non-profit organization, Share. This program hires people who are experiencing homelessness to clean up litter across the city. You can learn more about it here: https://www.cityofvancouver.us/cmo/page/talkin-trash-program 

    The City also operates a volunteer Litter Stewards program if you want to help with ongoing cleanup efforts. Learn more here: https://www.cityofvancouver.us/cmo/page/litter-removal 

    You can report litter on City streets and in City parks using our online service request form (select "Grounds and Cemeteries" from the list): https://www.cityofvancouver.us/publicworks/webform/service-requests-public-works 

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    According to the "Golden" spreadsheet for 2019 (the latest available on the WA Dept of Commerce website), we (taxpayers) spent roughly $500,000 on Lincoln Place for the year. Lincoln Place recorded a total of 7 exits. Four people exited to an unsheltered condition, two exited to other temporary housing, and one exit is not described; presumably that person died. Are these statistics what we'd expect for "Housing First"? Is the city comfortable with the value taxpayers are getting for these dollars? If we transitioned Lincoln Place to market rate housing and had 40 market rate folks helping to identify and call in problems in the neighborhood, the benefit to vulnerable unhoused people in the neighborhood would be immeasurable. Is that something the city would consider? I believe they would have to provide more parking, as it appears a zoning violation was likely committed when Lincoln Place was permitted without the required (or promised) number of parking spots.

    DowntownCouver asked 2 months ago

    Thank you for your question. 

    The City invested $200,000 of federal HOME Investment Partnerships funding in Lincoln Place in 2014. Through our agreement for this project, we required that the units we funded remain affordable to very low-income people until December 2055 as part of our ongoing effort to address the affordable housing crisis in Vancouver, which remains a high priority for the City. Converting it to market rate housing would be a violation of this agreement and is not something we would support.

    Vancouver Housing Authority owns the building and they are responsible how it is operated. You can reach them to learn more about their goals and how they measure success by contacting their Director of Affordable Housing, Leah Halstead, at 360-993-9503 or lhalstead@vhausa.com.

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    Homless camp off hwy in my hood What can we do about it who owns property

    Shellley asked 4 months ago

    You can find out who owns the property by visiting Clark County's MapsOnline property information website here: https://gis.clark.wa.gov/mapsonline/ 

    You will need to know the site address, or the address of a property near it. If you only know the address of a nearby property, search for that address and then you can navigate around the map that will come up and click on different parcels to pull up the property information for each. There are links to instructional videos and documents in the "Help" tab on this page, if you need them.

    If the camp is located on property owned by the City of Vancouver, you can contact us to request assistance using the free MyVancouver mobile or desktop application at: https://www.cityofvancouver.us/community/page/myvancouver

    Click or tap on "Homeless Assistance & Resource Team" from the main menu within the app to access the correct request form. Make sure to include the address or parcel number for the property in question.

    If the property is owned by another public agency (e.g. Washington State Department of Transportation, Clark County, etc.), you will need to contact them directly to request assistance.

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    How can the hoarding at the encampment outside of Springbrook Village be dealt with. The tents are not the issue though

    egshaw asked 8 months ago

    Hoarding behaviors are certainly a challenge among some encampments, and it’s difficult to address because it’s a symptom of mental health challenges in most situations. City staff have attempted to deal with this challenge in a few ways:

    1. We work very hard to connect individuals with appropriate mental health and outreach services to try to address the underlying mental health needs.
    2. We’ve partnered with Talkin’ Trash to provide a trash removal service three times per week at this particular camp.
    3. We’ve conducted more large-scale solid waste cleanups at this camp than we have at any other camp in town. Each time, we’ve collected more solid waste than the previous cleanup, and doing it in that way is intentional. These cleanups can be very traumatizing to folks who live with the mental health challenges mentioned above, so we spend a great deal of time leading up to a cleanup working with individuals to identify what they absolutely need and what they could let go of. The City’s HART team does this, and we also work alongside other mental health and outreach service providers so that individuals are being supported along the way. We also ensure that we remove anything that could be considered biohazardous during these cleanups to ensure the health and safety of the individuals living in the camps, but also for the larger community and the environment.


    All of those activities will continue as long as this camp, and others, exist; but this particular issue is just one of many reasons establishing supported campsites is necessary. There will be limitations on the kinds of items allowed in the supportive camps, as well as how large of a space each resident is allowed to maintain. Additionally, because these sites will be managed by a service provider, there will always be someone on-site who has the ability to provide support around issues such as this, in addition to monitoring what’s being brought into the camp by its residents.

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    I subscribed to your newsletter because my husband and I are considering moving to Vancouver. I am happy to hear that you are taking first steps to try to manage the homeless issue in your city. I hope these ideas work. My concern is for the mentally ill. Are there mental hospitals they can be taken to get help and be safe from themselves and from harming others? The hotel idea is excellent! I have heard that other cities use closed up hotels or any unused buildings to hold the homeless with the help of non-profits / churches, etc. We both like Vancouver and don't want to see it be overcome by this issue like Portland and Seattle have. Very sad. My heart goes out to the homeless but it needs to be managed.

    Katybugs asked 5 months ago

    Thank you for your comments and questions. We’re working very hard to balance the needs of the entire community—housed and unhoused—which is certainly not easy or simple. 

    There are mental/behavioral health facilities and community-based mental health response teams to assist folks experiencing mental health challenges in Clark County. Additionally, if there are no available mental/behavioral health beds within Clark County, a bed somewhere else in the state can typically be located, and an individual can be transported to that facility if needed. However, it should be noted that these are not City-funded services or facilities. Clark County is the primary funder for these services. You can learn more about what is available on the Clark County Community Services Department's website at https://clark.wa.gov/community-services.  

    We also loved the hotel as shelter idea, and were happy to contribute funding to help purchase the property. Our community has a significant shortage of shelter space, and we will continue to look for ways to assist with adding shelter capacity in our community. Thank you again for reaching out to us with your questions and concerns, and please feel free to continue contributing questions, concerns and ideas!

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    I know that there are good people handing out items for the unhoused but what about the responsibility of the same groups to return and pick up the empty water bottles, clothing, soiled and torn tarps, tents and blankets? Seems there should be a place for these items to be exchanged and discarded properly not just passed out without consideration.

    Belle asked 6 months ago

    This is a pretty significant problem, especially during COVID. Historically, there have been a couple of small volunteer groups that would pick things like that up to dispose of or recycle, but we believe that may have stopped after COVID hit. 

    While the City has ordinances against illegal dumping, that can be difficult to enforce in situations like this where people are donating items to others. We’ve attempted to mitigate some of this by placing dumpsters at/near larger encampments and/or providing trash pick-up service in partnership with the Talkin’ Trash crew. 

    We’ve also conducted large scale solid waste cleanups at encampments pretty regularly. Since February of this year, we’ve conducted 14 of those large clean ups at several different sites across the city, which have collected several dozen tons of solid waste.

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    At the empty lot at the intersection of 205 N. exit ramp and NE Chkalov Dr. (Near the back of Pacific Northwest (PNW) Electrology & Skincare) has a homeless camp less than a mile from my home. What is the plan to remove this blight? Is this camp going to expand? Is Vancouver just turning into another Portland?

    Maxpeck asked 4 months ago

    There is no immediate plan to remove this camp, but the City is working to remove a lot of the solid waste that has built up. 

    As the City's supportive campsites are established, we will start to see some movement in the encampments that we’ve seen grow and/or stay in place for the last year and a half. That movement may not be immediate, but it will happen for several reasons:

    1. As supportive campsites open, people will move into them vs. staying where they currently are.
    2. Each supportive campsite will have a 1,000-foot buffer around it where no camping is allowed, so anyone camping within 1,000 feet of a supported campsite will have to move outside of that buffer zone.
    3. The camping ordinance amendments recently approved by City Council include the establishment of other camping impact areas designed to protect environmentally sensitive areas. Because of this, anyone camping within 200 feet of a waterway (creek, lake, stream, river, etc.) will also have to find somewhere else to camp.


    We have not yet selected any locations for supportive campsites, so we don’t yet know if any of the above will have an impact on the camp at this location, but it’s possible. We don’t believe Vancouver will turn into another Portland, and that’s because we’re taking bold action now. Many larger cities waited many years before taking similar actions, and their encampment populations have grown exponentially in those years. 

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    How is the city going to clean up Marshall Community Park. It is the largest park in Vancouver and surrounding areas such as Camas and Battleground, and that is the reason I take my son there because it is the biggest park; However over the last year, several times going into the restrooms there is almost always at least 1 needle if not more. At one point I called the city public works department to report 14 needles in one bathroom alone! This is a place primarily for young children and there is not clean facility's for the CHILDREN to use due to the encamps on the edge of the park. Additionally there have been men walking around the park coming off of a high, acting erratic, one of which was rubbing his gentiles aggressively while watching my children play at the park. The violence, garbage including shattered bottles, and additictions need to removed from the area that is suppose to safely serve the innocent children of Vancouver.

    Concerned Parent asked 8 months ago

    The City's Public Works Department's Grounds maintenance crews currently visit Marshall Park on a regular basis. In addition, Share's Talkin' Trash crews also visit many city parks every week to remove litter, including needles. 

    You can report immediate maintenance needs between their visits by filling out an online service request on this webpage: https://www.cityofvancouver.us/publicworks/webform/service-requests-public-works. Just check the "Grounds and Cemeteries" in the list and fill in the rest of the form. Or you can call the urgent request phone line also listed on this webpage. 

    If you see people in the park doing drugs, behaving in the way you describe in your question, or otherwise breaking the law, you can call 9-1-1 to report something that is actively happening or call 3-1-1 to report something after the fact (after the person has left or the behaviors have stopped).

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    Is the homeless camp south of the Clark County YMCA and behind Applebee’s off 112th an example of your plan for the homeless? If so, it does not work! Everyday the trash piles higher and the site becomes more and more like a dump site. It is an embarrassment to the city and certainly not sanitary for those living there or for us who live or work nearby!!

    LK asked 5 months ago

    No, that is not one of the City's supportive campsites. However, the City's Homeless Assistance and Resources Team (HART) and our local non-profit service providers are aware of this camp and have reached out to the residents to try and help connect them with services. 

    The City is still working on developing its supportive campsite program. We will be hiring a vendor to operate the camps and are currently working with City Council to determine the supportive campsite siting criteria and locations.

    You can stay up to date on the progress of the City's Homelessness Response Plan and the associated supportive campsites by subscribing to the email list linked at the top of the right sidebar on our Homelessness Response Plan page on Be Heard Vancouver, or by subscribing to the City's monthly email newsletter, Vancouver Connects. We also regularly post updates to the Latest News section on our Be Heard Vancouver page.

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    Hello. I've read about the conversion of the Howard Johnson hotel by VanMall into a bridge shelter. What amenities and services will be available for each person? What criteria must be met if you are given a room and what is the proposed length of stay? Thanks!

    DogMom asked 5 months ago

    The City of Vancouver contributed funding to help purchase the old Howard Johnson hotel at 9201 N.E. Vancouver Mall Drive, but development and operations of the Bertha Baugh Place is being managed by Clark County's Community Services Department in partnership with the Vancouver Housing Authority, not by the City.

    Clark County has hired Catholic Community Services to operate the shelter, but building renovations are still underway and the shelter has not opened yet.

    Here are links to the two most recent news releases sent out about the project:

    Jan. 25, 2021: VHA to purchase Howard Johnson for non-congregate shelter

    March 3, 2021: Catholic Community Services of Western Washington selected to operate non-congregate shelter in Vancouver

    You can contact the county's Housing Preservation Manager Michael Torres with questions about Bertha Baugh Place at 564-397-7801 or Michael.torres@clark.wa.gov

Page last updated: 05 January 2022, 15:39