VANCOUVER, Wash. (KOIN) — A rapidly growing homeless camp west of downtown Vancouver is raising concerns with some neighbors who say the campers are taking over the area.
The camp near W 13th Street and Lincoln Avenue is growing at what some say is an alarming rate. Tents, grocery carts and people’s belongings take up local sidewalks and car campers fill the streets.
Neighborhood builder Jack Harroun lives several blocks away from the camp. He says, while he’s not out to demonize the homeless, housing a large portion of Clark County’s homeless population in one area isn’t fair to those who live nearby.
“My encouragement is for people to think, well look, how would you react if this was in front of your front door, and your kids had to catch the bus amongst this?” Harroun said.
Oletta Mclain, who is disabled, says she’s living in the homeless camp while she looks for a permanent place to live.
“All we’re trying to do is get back on our feet,” she said.
Mclain says she believes many of the people she’s met at the camp are decent people and, like her, victims of the housing crisis.
“The minute they find out you’re homeless you’re automatically a drug user,” she said. “You’re automatically bad, and it’s like no, not everybody.”
Vancouver City Councilor Alyshia Topper says help is on the way. Seasonal day and night shelters will soon open, and in February, 30 new units of affordable housing will be available.
Topper says local authorities will soon enforce the city’s camping ordinance, which allows people to camp at night but disperse during the day.
“We’ll put dumpsters down there so people can discard things they no longer want or need,” she explained. “They’ll have the opportunity to do that, but we will be enforcing.”
While help is on the way, whether it’s enough to get everyone who wants shelter and housing into it remains to be seen.