PORT TOWNSEND — Jefferson County officials continue to weigh options for possible short-term solutions to relocating the homeless residents at the Jefferson County Fairgrounds campgrounds as the June 30 eviction moratorium expiration date looms.
The Cape George equestrian park is at the top of the list but is not the only option under consideration.
No final decision has been made on a site for a future homeless camp.
County commissioners met with housing service providers, law enforcement, fire department and other officials in a two-hour special meeting Thursday to discuss various ideas and plans on where and how a temporary homeless encampment can be set up while permanent solutions are sought.
If a homeless encampment is established to replace the campground’s encampment, it would be considered an overflow shelter and would be managed by Olympic Community Action Programs (OlyCAP), in line with the emergency ordinance for temporary housing that the commissioners approved earlier this year.
While the fairgrounds is county-owned property, the county has leased it to the Jefferson County Fair Association to oversee, and the fair board plans to evict the homeless campers staying there when the state moratorium lifts at the end of the month, said Greg Brotherton, District 3 commissioner.
When asked if the fair board would be willing to allow the campers to stay until a permanent solution/housing could be created, Brotherton said: “I’m sure the fair board would not agree to it.”
While there are 10 available spots at the shelter at the American Legion Hall and some campers have moved to Peter’s Place — a wooden-tent village in Port Hadlock — about 38 people will be displaced during the eviction.
Some of the 38 are in pairs or families, which makes housing in a shelter difficult to impossible, said Cherish Cronmiller, OlyCAP executive director.
Officials also are scrambling to develop an official overflow encampment with a large amount of the unhoused population in one place so providers can continue to offer services.
The creation of an official encampment also would help avoid an uncontrolled encampment cropping up at a public park or property, said Kate Dean, county commission chair.
She said homeless residents could start such area legally if the county does not have adequate facilities for them as a result of a federal court decision.
Brotherton created a matrix of 24 potential properties/places on where to move the homeless, and he presented it Thursday.
The matrix scored the potential places by zoning, transport, access to services, potable water and other infrastructure needs. They were then organized as options worth considering, possible options with some conflicts that would need to be addressed or not viable options.
Having an overflow shelter shows a commitment to putting resources toward the issue of homelessness, rather than pouring money into law enforcement and hospital costs that result from lack of oversight and access to services, Cronmiller said.
No other property outside of Memorial Field has the infrastructure of electricity, running water and bathrooms like the fairgrounds does, she added.
At the top of the list is the Cape George equestrian park property at 1172 Cape George Road.
The Cape George property lacks running water, electricity and is far from town.
Brotherton said he has been working with Goodman Sanitation, which would provide portable sinks and toilets at a discounted cost. Electricity could be connected to the property, and Jefferson Transit Authority is willing to have two dial-a-ride shuttles from the property each day at no cost to the county, he said.
Another cost for the property is the creation of a gravel pad where the dial-a-ride and emergency services can pull in and turn around, he added.
Brotherton presented a preliminary budget of $94,294 for continued services for a homeless encampment, which includes water, fencing, oversight and internet connections to the Cape George property. But he emphasized the numbers are estimations only at this point.
Neighbors of the site worry they will have similar problems to those reported by people who live near the fairgrounds camp.
Officials said if Cape George is created as an overflow shelter, OlyCAP will have a monitor there overnight, when the majority of emergency calls regarding the current encampment are made, and a fence would surround the area, in accordance with the emergency ordinance the commissioners passed.
District 2 Commissioner Heidi Eisenhour said she is concerned that the Cape George property is too small. She measured it at a bit more than an acre, which she considers to be too small for an encampment of possibly 38 people.
Among other potential properties is a 30-acre site on four parcels on Mill Road, which would require a purchase of about $600,000.
Commissioners will continue discussions regarding the homeless encampments at their Monday meeting.
More of Thursday’s discussion, the matrix and the budget can be viewed at https://tinyurl.com/PDN-EncampmentDiscussion.
Jefferson County reporter Zach Jablonski can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 5, or at [email protected]