TACOMA, Wash. – Toilets, hand-washing sinks and fresh water are all now being provided by the city of Tacoma for a burgeoning homeless camp in the industrial Tideflats area.
It’s called ‘The Compound’ and dozens of people there live in tents along the Puyallup River.
City officials said it's trying to address public health and safety issues for a growing homeless population.
The services being offered at the camp are part of what’s called a ‘Rapid Resource Pop-up’ and it’s designed to give campers access to sanitation services and on-site counseling and 24-hour security.
The camp along Portland Avenue is the first of several planned in the city.
Camp resident Anthony Laird said he has been homeless in Pierce County for five years and since living in the compound, he said, the population has grown.
“Since they did all this, it’s doubled,” he said.
Part of the Rapid Resource Pop-up is to providing garbage pickup, portable toilets, hand-washing sinks and a fresh water line installed several days ago.
After Tacoma leaders declared a homeless emergency, the city has been working with neighbors to learn how to serve a growing homeless population.
“There are things we’re learning from the city of Seattle, but it’s also very important for us to look at the needs for our community,” said Pamela Duncan with Tacoma’s human services agency.
There is also a temporary trailer at the camp where homeless will be able to connect with outreach services.
The Pop-up’s are only the first in a three-step approach; the second step will be establishing temporary transition centers that could include sanctioned tent cities, according to the Tacoma News Tribune.
But the third phase could be more difficult – finding short-term transitional housing in a rental market that’s getting more expensive.
“The availability of affordable housing is always the issue at the end of that line that we have a problem with,” said Duncan.
Laird said he likes living in the small community but he would be willing to take offers for a more secure living situation if he gets to keep his pet.
“You know, I’m just kind of stuck in a rut,” he said. “As long as I can keep my cat, I’m willing to do whatever.”
The city also said Tacoma police officers will be increasing their focus on drug dealers, which are attracted to homeless camps and prey on vulnerable people.