An aerial photo shows the Caswell-Brown Village on Mill Road near the edge of Port Townsend. The site, purchased by Jefferson County and operated by the Olympic Community Action Programs, has the potential for expansion to serve more families and single people who are homeless. (photo courtesy Olympic Community Action Programs)

An aerial photo shows the Caswell-Brown Village on Mill Road near the edge of Port Townsend. The site, purchased by Jefferson County and operated by the Olympic Community Action Programs, has the potential for expansion to serve more families and single people who are homeless. (photo courtesy Olympic Community Action Programs)

Update: Unhoused find homes

Caswell-Brown Village encampment expansion before county

PORT TOWNSEND — Twenty-three-year-old Victoria Brown died outside of her trailer at the Jefferson County Fairgrounds a few days after Christmas 2020.

John Caswell, 62, died of hyperthermia — he couldn’t escape last June’s extreme heat wave.

Each of the two people lived in Port Townsend, both struggled with substance abuse, and neither had a house, an apartment or a room to rent.

So began a presentation to the Jefferson County Board of Commissioners about care for the unhoused people who live locally. Cherish Cronmiller and Kathy Morgan of the Olympic Community Action Programs (OlyCAP) spoke about the progress they’ve made — with county funding — and about their hopes to help more families, couples and single people find a safe place to be.

That place is named the Caswell-Brown Village in remembrance of the two homeless people who lost their lives, said Cronmiller, OlyCAP executive director. Known at first as the Mill Road site, it’s a centralized, OlyCAP-monitored encampment near the Larry Scott Trail and the Port Townsend Paper Corp.

This Monday, Caswell-Brown is again on the county agenda.

The commissioners will discuss the next phases and their potential funding during the conversation scheduled for 10:30 a.m.; the public can attend the meeting online via https://zoom.us/j/93777841705, or in person at the Jefferson County Courthouse, 1820 Jefferson St.

Monday’s agenda and OlyCAP’s slide presentation are found at www.co.jefferson.wa.us under Agendas and Minutes.

It was seven months ago that the county commissioners purchased the village land for $600,000. It was an emergency solution after the fairgrounds, since the start of the pandemic, had become an encampment for homeless people.

This was a big problem — for neighbors, law enforcement, the fairgrounds and the campers.

By the first week of October, the majority of those campers had been moved. And the Caswell-Brown Village, Cronmiller told the commissioners, has since changed the outlook for people who’ve been unable to find shelter.

OlyCAP provides 24-seven monitoring at Caswell-Brown; OlyCAP has developed protocols for visitors, which have cut down on incidents involving law enforcement. An entrance gate, electrical power, a trailer supplying potable water, a kitchen tent and portable toilets are on site.

A contract with Jefferson Healthcare provides hot meals daily, while local businesses such as Green Crow Tacos and Crusty Crumb bakery donate food every week, Cronmiller noted.

A nurse from the JC MASH free clinic makes weekly visits, Discovery Behavioral Health offers mental health check-ins and the Pet Helpers organization sends volunteers to aid campers’ pets.

Nineteen adults and one child are staying at the Caswell-Brown Village, Cronmiller reported.

At the same time, too many other people are living in the woods or in their vehicles, Morgan added.

As OlyCAP’s director of housing and community development, she hears from people wanting to come to Caswell-Brown — but there isn’t yet space for them.

Morgan and Cronmiller then presented the plans for the village’s next phases, which could include a new entrance road farther away from the Larry Scott Trail, safety lighting, septic service, a communal shower-bathroom facility, a communal kitchen for residents and volunteers, and a place to do laundry. Space for tiny shelters, in addition to tents and motor homes, is also a possibility.

The village could be expanded to accommodate 50 residents, which is the number provided for in the county ordinance, Cronmiller noted.

Jefferson County already has committed about $1 million to the Caswell-Brown project, including the purchase price.

Now OlyCAP is asking whether — and how much more — the county is willing to provide in support.

OlyCAP intends to apply for state and federal funding for village improvements and operating costs, Cronmiller said. If the agency can show it has ongoing site control as well as local support, those applications will be much stronger.

Expanding a centralized site such as Caswell-Brown, she emphasized, can be more cost-efficient than what other cities and counties are spending on scattered encampments. The latter may not give people good access to basic necessities and mental and physical health care, which can lead to greater costs to the community.

After the OlyCAP presentation about expansion to 50 people at the village, District 1 Commissioner Kate Dean asked whether there are “additional folks who wish to be residents.”

“Oh, my goodness. Yes,” Cronmiller said, adding that “we all get calls, nonstop” from people asking about Caswell-Brown.

A priority list will have to be worked out, Morgan added, and that will be difficult due to the number of people in need.

“We’re really looking forward to getting the families out of their cars and places that are not fit for human habitation,” she said.

District 3 Commissioner Greg Brotherton thanked Morgan, Cronmiller and their team for taking on the project — an audacious and visionary one, he believes.

As for the county’s involvement as a funder, Brotherton added, the village “is part of our community. So it does fall on our shoulders.”

________

Jefferson County Senior Reporter Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-417-3509 or durbanidelapaz @peninsuladailynews.com.

More in News

Health warning lifted at East Beach on Marrowstone Island

Jefferson County Public Health has lifted the health warning from… Continue reading

Abby Counts, 8, with assistance from her father, Taylor Counts, an EMT with Clallam 2 Fire-Rescue, gives a newly acquired tender truck a ceremonial wash down during a push-in ceremony on Saturday at the district’s Station 22. The truck, tender 22, cost $459,439 and was paid for by the fire district’s 2020 levy lid lift. Saturday’s ceremony also included a blessing by the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe and a “push-in” of the truck into its berth. The tender replaces a 31-year-old truck that had reached the end of its useful life. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)
New tender

Abby Counts, 8, with assistance from her father, Taylor Counts, an EMT… Continue reading

The 95 Port Townsend High School seniors walk through the rhody garden at Fort Worden State Park on their way to the graduation ceremony on Friday. (Steve Mullensky/for Peninsula Daily News)
Graduation walk

Port Townsend, Chimacum ceremonies

Lands commissioner wary of federal plan to kill thousands of owls

Washington’s public lands commissioner, Hilary Franz, is voicing skepticism about a federal… Continue reading

Operations scheduled at Bentinck range this week

The land-based demolition range at Bentinck Island will be… Continue reading

Weekly flight operations scheduled

There will be field carrier landing practice operations for aircraft… Continue reading

Matt Larson of Sequim, who uses the radio call sign KC7EQO, tunes into a ham radio satellite during Saturday’s Radio Field Day at the Clallam County Fairgrounds in Port Angeles. The annual event, hosted by the Clallam County Amateur Radio Club, brought together amateur radio operators from around the world in a contest to make as many radio contacts as possible in a 24-hour period as a test of emergency preparedness from remote locations. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)
Testing the system

Matt Larson of Sequim, who uses the radio call sign KC7EQO, tunes… Continue reading

Best of the Peninsula.
Voting round open for Best of Peninsula contest

It’s time again to vote for the Best of the Peninsula. Now… Continue reading

Port of Port Townsend focusing on five capital improvement projects

Stormwater improvement in permitting phase; construction may begin this year

Clallam County Sheriff Brian King, right, carries a ceremonial torch with Special Olympian William Sirguy, center, accompanied by his mother, Katie Sirguy, during Friday’s Special Olympics Law Enforcement Torch Run along the Waterfront Trail in Port Angeles. The event, designed to raise awareness and funds for the Special Olympics movement, brought together law enforcement officers from Clallam, Jefferson and Kitsap counties for a march across the North Olympic Peninsula. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)
Torch run

Clallam County Sheriff Brian King, right, carries a ceremonial torch with Special… Continue reading

Groups back natural gas initiative

Signature-gathering efforts end July 5

Pictured left to right, Ginny Wagner, Xxzavyon (XJ) Square, Ewan Mordecai-Smith, Elise Sirguy, Mahayla Amendolare and Mallory Hartman cut the ribbon of the little free library at Jefferson Elementary School on Friday. (Darlene Cook)
Students come together to promote reading literacy

Free library constructed near Jefferson Elementary