Seven people were arrested Tuesday evening on state property in downtown Olympia after refusing to take down a homeless encampment. At the same time, the Olympia City Council and the Thurston County Board of Commissioners held a rare joint meeting on homeless issues.
Both the activists and political leaders agree on the key problem: The city needs more shelters with fewer rules and other barriers to entry so that people aren’t left on the streets.
To protest the lack of shelter, the Olympia Movement for Justice and Peace erected a large tent Monday on state Department Fish and Wildlife property on Washington Street across from the Boardwalk Apartments.
The large white tent, labeled “homeless shelter,” was originally placed at the artesian well near Fourth Avenue and Jefferson Street on Friday. But activists moved the tent to state property Monday after City Manager Steve Hall ordered them to leave the artesian well property.
The group also wasn’t welcome on state property. Earlier Tuesday, the Department of Fish and Wildlife posted a cease and desist order at the camp, agency spokesman Jason Wettstein said.
He said the warehouse on the property is condemned and there are concerns about safety at the site. The state is working to sell the property to the Port of Olympia, which seeks more parking space.
Alex Daye, one of those arrested after the state’s 6 p.m. deadline to leave the property, said earlier in evening that 13 people had spent Monday night at the property.
While people were being arrested downtown, the City Council and the County Commission were meeting, but they made no decisions. Much of the meeting was made up of the city and the county trying to determine the meeting’s agenda.
Representatives from both governments said they’re interested in creating more low-barrier shelters and a coordinated homeless services system. But they differed on details.
The hardest part of providing more shelter is finding a site, said Danny Kadden, executive director of Interfaith Works, a group that provides temporary shelters at churches. The council has earmarked $35,000 toward finding more options for the homeless. Kadden asked for patience and said that a breakthrough for shelter could happen in the next few weeks.Staff photographer Tony Overman contributed to this report.