Olympia homeless camp called a "public emergency"

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by NATALIE SWABY / KING 5 News

Bio | Email | Follow: @NSwabyKing5

KING5.com

Posted on December 5, 2012 at 12:03 AM

Updated Wednesday, Dec 5 at 12:05 AM

OLYMPIA  -- Tuesday night the Olympia city council rejected a proposed ordinance to ban camping at city hall.  

City Manager Steve Hall raised the issue, calling it a public emergency, after Olympia’s homeless started using city hall grounds as a place to set up their tarps and sleeping bags.

Hall said a few campers first arrived six to eight months ago. Recently, as many as 30 campers were counted sleeping over at City Hall. "This is an unmanaged, unsanitary, unsafe condition that needs to change," said Hall. "Just last night a couple was trying to cook some meth in front of police officer." Hall called it a growing problem that is putting the public at risk.

He said a city staff member had her coat torn and she was knocked to the ground by one of the camper’s dogs. Hall added that city workers have had to clean up urine, feces, condoms, and needles left outside city hall's doors.

"We don't know who is out there. We don't know what criminal records we have. We don't know behaviors. There's no one to manage them. So I don't think it is safe for them either. I don't have a problem telling them to go elsewhere," said Hall.

Damien Williams is homeless. He has been camping outside city hall for the last two months. He said the city is over exaggerating the problem and the group is overall peaceful.

"Where else are we going to go," said Williams who claimed the shelters he often checks are full. City council rejected the proposed ordinance to ban camping and said further discussion is needed. The issue will be discussed on Thursday during the Land Use Committee meeting.

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