Olympia Proposes Ordinance Against Homeless at City HallBy Janine Unsoeld
A proposed ordinance by the city of Olympia that would prohibit persons from camping on the grounds of the Olympia City Hall is scheduled to be discussed at Tuesday night's city council meeting. The meeting starts at 7:00 p.m.The ordinance would add a new chapter to the Olympia municipal code regarding streets, sidewalks and public places.
The proposed ordinance states that persons constructing shelters and camping on the grounds of the Olympia City Hall at 601 4th Avenue East presents a safety hazard, as well as creates significant negative impacts on the environment, public health and public property.
It states that persons camping at City Hall also frequently have animals which have caused fear and apprehension in persons accessing or approaching City Hall, and in at least one instance, an employee was bitten by a camper’s dog.Due to a lack of proper sanitary facilities, the ordinance says that public health impacts create a situation where individuals have "commonly and openly urinated and defecated on the grounds of the Olympia City Hall and on the adjacent public rights-of-way. "
It also says that the City of Olympia has had to expend substantial public resources to clean the area and remove human waste, litter, garbage and other debris.
Homeless At Olympia City HallTonight, about 7:00 p.m., a meeting of the Olympia planning commission was in progress while several homeless people were sitting outside Olympia City Hall, none of whom were obstructing the front doors. They were informed about the proposed ordinance by this reporter and were invited to attend Tuesday night’s meeting to discuss their concerns with city council members.
Willy Robinson, a security guard contracted by an outside agency for the city, works four nights a week at city hall. He said he has had to ask people camped outside the doors to back away if they are smoking too close to the entrance, and on occasion, ask people to move to clear the entrance of people blocking the doors if there is a meeting.
Damien, 26, a Tlingit from Juneau, Alaska, has been in Olympia three months, sleeping in front of city hall. He participated in the Paddle to Squaxin 2012 Canoe Journey in late July and says his picture is painted on the mural that faces Budd Inlet, commemorating the event.
Sitting on a bench near his tarp-covered cart on wheels, he was informed about the proposed ordinance. He says the public urination is done “mainly by drunk people” who pass by, and that his trailer was recently peed on when he once left it unattended.
Asked where he goes to the bathroom when he has to go, he says he goes to a nearby coffee shop or Jack-in-the-Box. "They are real nice at Jack-in-the-Box, and don’t require you to buy anything to go to the bathroom there." During the day, he hangs out “down by the water” under the covered area on Percival Landing. There is a public bathroom near there also.
His cart on wheels, he says, is filled with blankets from local service organizations. “It’s mostly young people who stay here by city hall – almost everyone who stays here has one of my blankets.” Damien says he gets dinner at the Union Gospel Mission. Asked if he knows about the Salvation Army, he says he does, but doesn't want to be there. He says that because he’s from Alaska, “he’s fine living outside.”
Ivan, a man who appeared to be in his 50s, says he’s only been in Olympia for a couple of days, and has been sleeping in front of city hall. Informed about the proposed ordinance, he said, “I don’t think that’s nice – all we’re doing is getting out of the rain.” Ivan said he is from Klamath Falls, Oregon, but is just traveling through – he’s on his way to White Fish, Montana where he has a job lined up.
Cameron, 24, is from Modesto, California, and offered his comments about the proposed ordinance.
“The rain here sucks! It’s not fun!” Cameron said he arrived in Olympia two days ago on a Greyhound bus. His sister lives in Centralia, and she’s working on getting them a place to live.
“We were adopted…so there’s no room or space for us to go. I’m not trying to invade someone else’s space, so I stayed here last night.” He said he ate at the Salvation Army and is leaving tomorrow or the next day. Asked where he hangs out during the day, he said he goes to the transit station or “over by the water.” Told the specifics of the proposed ordinance, he says he doesn’t pee right in front of city hall, but indicated that he does so nearby, on “on the ground.”
Christina, 22, didn’t know what an ordinance was and was told it was like a law. Explained what it was about, she said, “Don't they have to wait like thirty days before they do that? They should just post a sign that says when meetings are happening and to not block the entrances.”
She said she is three and a half months pregnant, and the baby’s father is in jail. Asked if she knows what resources she could access, she said she does, but has a warrant out for her arrest and couldn’t do anything with that “hanging over her head.” As she starts to light up a cigarette, I scowled and she smiled and said she knew it wasn’t good for her to smoke and refrains. I asked her if she is able to eat enough, and she said she does, at the Union Gospel Mission. “Thank God for them!”When asked, she says she been homeless since she was 16. “My dad kicked me out of the house because he lives with my uncle and my dad likes to touch me so I don’t want to be there.”
I asked if she’s getting any kind of prenatal care. “Tomorrow is my first appointment at Something Radiology - hey - can I use your phone so I can call my friend to get me there?” she asks Cameron. Near the end of our conversation, she said she will turn herself in tomorrow so she can get help.
Another person sucking on a plastic bag sitting nearby does not answer my questions.
Just then, a woman comes up and asks someone - anyone - in the group for a cigarette.