City and state leaders pushed up their timeline to move people out of a homeless encampment underneath the Interstate 5 and Interstate 705 interchange near the Tacoma Dome.
Last week, in a tour of the camp called the ‘Tacoma Jungle,’ Tacoma Dome business leaders put pressure on city and Washington State Department of Transportation officials to move the people along with the growing trash and needles.
With all the stakeholders at the table during the walkthrough, the first plan was to have everyone living in the encampment out by the first week in May, but Tacoma City Councilmember Robert Toms says the city notified people last Friday that they needed to be off of city owned land Monday.
"Our human services people came out to give them 72 hour notice that we plan to clean up this site and remediate it,” he said. “If you [they] want to available yourself [themselves] to services here's how you [they] can do it.”
Toms cites growing safety concerns for the expedited timeline.
“If things were to get out of hand, you have too much accumulation of people. There are cars underneath here. It’s just dangerous,” said Toms. “If there were any type of fires, we don’t want to have an incident that we can’t deal with until after something happens.”
While most tents are gone from the city owned area, there are still more than a dozen tents on WSDOT property.
"As I understand it I talked to WSDOT this morning. They're in concert with my Tacoma police department and also our human services department, will give notice on Friday in hopes they can come back on Monday to move people out of here," said Toms.
David Vannoy will be one of those people.
"It's not a tent; this is a little home I built, you know," said Vannoy.
Vannoy said he has been homeless since 2013 and has been living in the Tacoma Jungle for about a year.
"The problem is going to be where are they going to put us? If they're not going to put us somewhere where we can be then we’re just going to be a problem for somebody else somewhere else," he said.
But Toms said city officials can work to bite off smaller pieces while also addressing the larger systemic issue of homelessness.
“The part that we can do sooner rather than later is the enforcement of our rules,” he said.