The City of Tacoma started helping homeless people move into the city's first temporary emergency shelter Monday.

The shelter, which is known as a stability site, is located at Portland Avenue East and Puyallup Avenue.

"This is an opportunity to see if establishing a specific site that welcomes these individuals and provides services to individuals to get themselves on track to see if that works,” said Deputy Fire Chief Tory Green.

Natalie Robinson, who is homeless, started to organize her belongings Monday morning at The Compound, the city’s first sanctioned homeless camp with bathrooms and hand washing stations that will shut down this week.

“They're starting today until the 28th or to the 30th moving to the new spot," said Robinson, who expects to move out this week.

City staff helped move about 20 people Monday and plan to continue the staggered move in process throughout the week. According to Green, 62 people will be able to fit inside the temperature controlled tent at the stability site, and 21 people will have assigned tents outside.

"They're giving people a chance to pick in or out, but I think I'm going to take inside," said Robinson.

Tacoma's temporary emergency shelter site can hold 21 people in tents.
Tacoma's temporary emergency shelter site can hold 21 people in tents.

Green said the site will be secured.

"You won't be able to go in and out at your leisure if you're not assigned here," Green said.

The city is still working through options that will allow people a place to put their cars.

"Parking here is horrible, particularly here for this site,” said Green. “We're looking to partner with the neighboring businesses to see if we can lease some of their parking space, and there's also a city right away down the road that we're looking at, but it's definitely a challenge."

This is all part of the city's three phrase emergency plan to address homelessness. The temporary shelter is phase two. For those at The Compound getting ready to move, there is a sense of relief that stability is near.

"Do you know how much joy was around in the air last night?” said Crystal Hillin. “All of these people just because they knew we were going there."

The stability site is expected to be up for the next six months. Meanwhile the city is looking into phase three, which includes long term housing options, which Robinson is looking forward to.

"This is supposed to be a phase two temporary housing and just going to work us up to the permanent housing, and I think it will be great if it works," she said.