City of Tacoma crews started preparing a temporary rapid resource pop-up site at a homeless encampment on Portland Avenue East and 18th Street Thursday.
The site is expected to provide those living at the encampment with restrooms, a place to clean up, and a place to put their trash. It is one of the first steps the city is taking to address what it has declared as a public health emergency regarding homelessness in the city.
"It's about humanity,” said Pam Duncan, Tacoma human services division manager. “It's about addressing the issues and the needs that all of us have as humans, and no matter where you are, where you find yourself in life, where you find yourself as far as your circumstances, everyone still has basic needs that need to be addressed."
Some of the people who live at the encampment on Portland Avenue, like Susan Criss, said the pop-up site is coming a good time. She says there’s comfort in knowing there is a temporary place she is permitted to stay.
"Homeless people kind of just go where they can until they're asked to leave,” she said. “I’ve been here for three weeks. I moved from the Jungle back into town and then back out here…I think it's beautiful that they're trying. It's wonderful, nice of them."
For someone like John Horde, who is living out of his car near the encampment, he says the cleanup area will be crucial as he looks for a steady job.
"You're clean, you're healthy looking. Society looks at you a little bit different," Horde said. “If you go to work dirty, you come home, you're not able to shower, you go to work dirty the next day. Come the third or fourth day you go in looking pretty bad. It doesn’t matter what your skill level is, your bosses and your employers look at you like okay, we just got to get him down the road. We just got to get him away from us."
There will be similar pop-up sites at other encampments around the city, and city leaders say they will be temporary. Once they are up and running, they will be operational for four to six weeks, according to Duncan.
City leaders expect to have outreach workers on site to connect people with treatment and housing services and eventually clear out the encampment.
Duncan said enforcement will also be a key piece to the development of these sites to regulate illegal activity.