To cut down on the crime and drug use, Longview police has been working overtime to patrol a large camp on Alabama Street three times a day.
LONGVIEW, Wash — Like many other west coast cities, the city of Longview has been working to find a solution to their homeless crisis for years.
The city allowed homeless people to camp on a piece of land as an emergency response to the crisis, but they had to leave by March 2020. The pandemic pushed that back and now nearly three years later more than 100 people have been living in a camp on Alabama Street.
In August, the city declared the camp a public health and safety emergency and moved them to an adjacent parking lot.
Now, the city is planning to build 50 cabins in place of the old camp while also increasing police patrols.
On Sunday a woman sat outside the camp entrance monitoring who comes and goes, it’s part of the city’s effort to have around-the-clock security at the camp.
“Now it’s turned into an institution we’re all stereotyped as being drug addicts,” said one of the homeless people living there.
To cut down on the crime and drugs, over the past few weeks the Longview police has been working overtime to patrol the camp three times a day along with the surrounding neighborhoods.
This has resulted in police contacting hundreds of people, stopping dozens of crimes in progress and making many arrests.
“It seems like there’s a lot less overdoes,” added JD who lives in the camp. “The police and the chief they helped, they’ve always helped.”
The homeless must follow a new set of rules or else they’ll be asked to leave. The rule upsetting most of them is no visitors, including family.
“That means my family can’t come in here, my daughter. I mean what if she needs to talk to her dad?” said JD.
“They’re making it a concentration camp for these people,” added another man experiencing homelessness.
Donations are also no longer allowed at the entrance to the camp.
On-site security told KGW that a few months ago, 149 people lived in the camp. That number is now down to 80 since many didn’t want to follow the new guidelines.
The city just finished covering the old camp location in asphalt and plans to build 50 cabins out of pallets from a local company. There will be sanitation facilities, stormwater treatment facilities, additional security, additional lighting, and other physical improvements intended to help prevent future public health and safety emergencies. It’s scheduled to open next month.
“I’d love it. I’d love it because it’s hard for me to get a job and what not,” said one man who’s lived in the camps for almost two years.
The city doesn’t intend for the cabins to be permanent housing, which may come as a surprise to some who don’t want to leave.
“Now I’ve got a girlfriend that stays with me and we’re having fun,” said another homeless man.
The city is also partnering with the Salvation Army to open an emergency shelter called HOPE Village. The Salvation Army will provide case management and help those experiencing homelessness find jobs, behavioral health support and housing.
The city plans to open this emergency shelter in mid-November and it will be able to serve about 50 people.