Tacoma conducts clean up, outreach at homeless encampment along South Yakima Avenue

A homeless encampment in Tacoma at the intersection of Yakima Avenue and South 8th Street is being cleaned up by the City of Tacoma.

Crews arrived at the camp Tuesday morning to toss materials into dumpsters and offer services to the estimated 17 people living there. Clean-up and outreach continued Wednesday.

On Tuesday, the city’s Homeless Outreach Team made contact with six people to offer services.

One person went to Tacoma Rescue Mission and likely will enter a shelter at Shiloh Baptist on Monday when that location opens, said Megan Snow, city spokesperson.

Four others were referred to the city’s Temporary Emergency Micro Shelters (TEMS), or tiny home villages, for pre-entry screening. The city is readying to open a TEMS site at South 69th and Proctor Street on property owned by City of Tacoma.

Another person declined services.

Tamara Knarr, who goes by “Rusty” and was previously interviewed by The News Tribune in November 2020 while living on the site, said Tuesday she’s been unable to secure shelter.

“I’ve been turned down. I don’t know why. I give up,” she said.

The camp at South 8th Street and Yakima Avenue has steadily grown since the beginning of 2020, resulting in complaints from some nearby neighbors and businesses.

Residents of the camp were notified in early September about the planned clean-up. Homelessness and housing advocates spoke out against the plan, saying that without a low-barrier shelter open to all people, the city is just moving people from place to place during a pandemic.

Maureen Howard, senior policy analyst with the Tacoma Pierce County Coalition to End Homelessness, wrote in an op-ed for The News Tribune some people might find space in an existing emergency shelter if they fit eligibility, but others will join other encampments across the city.

“What we know for certain is that none of them will be in Tacoma’s anticipated new temporary low-barrier emergency shelter, because it won’t be open on time,” Howard wrote.

On Tuesday, volunteers offered water and food to people at the camp. Wolf Cooke with mutual aid program Serve the People Tacoma told The News Tribune that people living at the camp deserved better and criticized the city’s clean-up efforts.

“The reality is that they’re just pushing people out. That’s all that’s happening,” Cooke said.

As for Knarr, she said she’s not sure what’s next.

“Just like everybody else, we don’t know where we’re gonna go,” she said.

This story was originally published by The News Tribune.