Plans to close Olympia homeless camp delayed, church steps in

VIDEO: Plans to close Olympia homeless camp delayed, church steps in

OLYMPIA, Wash. — An unregulated homeless camp under the 4th Avenue Bridge near downtown Olympia is still there, nearly a week after the city planned to clear it out.

“I’m taking a stand. I’m tired of getting to where I have nowhere to go,” said Opie Tyler, who has lived under the bridge for a year with his dog, Charlie. He’s fighting to keep the camp.

City workers have said the camp is a health and safety risk. Tests show there’s fecal coliform bacteria in the water.

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“I understand they put port-a-potties there to correct some of the issues, but that’s condoning it, too. It’s a no-win situation,” said Sue Marshall, who works downtown and often doesn’t feel safe.

“Why are they reneging on something they said they would do? I don’t understand,” Marshall said.

First Christian Church Pastor Amy LaCroix said campers came to her last week asking for help.

She spoke to council Tuesday and helped persuade them to delay cleanup until an alternative spot is available.

LaCroix said campers need to learn how to govern themselves. She plans to hold them accountable.

"If we can get people feeling stable and safe and secure in this location without sweeping them away, we can have a real shot at making a huge difference at bettering the community,” LaCroix said.

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To start, they're cleaning up the camp and holding a meeting Monday evening between campers and local clergy.

"I want a better place. I don't want the mitigation site, I don't want the Union Gospel Mission, I don't want a shelter,” Tyler said. "I want to be able to start from the bottom and get myself out of here."

Despite the delay, the city said the long-term goal stays the same. They plan to move campers out from under the bridge.

The city of Olympia plans to build a second mitigation site outside of downtown that people can move to, but they're having a tough time finding a suitable spot.