‘River Junky’ to clean up Longview homeless camp

Volunteers expect to clean 20,000 pounds of trash

The mess left behind at the Coal Creek boat launch in Longview. Washington from homeless campers. (Courtesy photo)

LONGVIEW, Wash. (KOIN) — Volunteers plan on cleaning up thousands of pounds of trash left by homeless campers near the Columbia River in Longview at the end of September.

Some residents have said the problems with homeless campers are growing in their area much like in the Portland metro area.

Clean up Facebook event

The homeless camp the “River Junky” cleanup crew is tackling on September 30 is at a boat launch on the banks of Coal Creek

“This is probably the biggest litter camp I’ve ever seen,” resident Aaron Ridling said.

River Junky president Jarrod Kirkley said more than 100 volunteers expect to pull out 20,000 pounds of trash from the boat launch area alone.

“Since we are going in as a group, everyone is protected,” Kirkley said.

Residents speculate that the closure of the low-barrier Love Overwhelming shelter in Kelso has contributed to the problem.

“There are a lot of people who were displaced from shelters who are back in the wilderness on their own again,” city council member Mike Wallin said.

Wallin said the city still has a moratorium on new shelters due to debates over zoning. The city council will look at that issue again on September 28 but he said the community has been leaning away from allowing the low-barrier models.

Instead of favoring new shelters that require clients to work toward sobriety, Wallin pointed to Longview’s community house as a good example.

“The other models that we’ve seen be more successful in our community are the clean and sober safe and healthy models,” Wallin said.

In the meantime, Ridling said this cleanup is urgent as fall rain will fill the waterways.

“We’re just trying to get these clean, especially those along the Cowlitz River, because when the water goes up it washes everything out,” Ridley said.