With downtown Longview off the table, the City Council was scheduled Thursday to review three locations to house pallet homes inside a managed homeless encampment.
The Longview City Council was scheduled Thursday night to review three city locations: the current Alabama Street encampment, a Gerhart Gardens Park parking lot, and part of the roadway near the 3500 block of Memorial Park Drive.
The council voted unanimously Sept. 8 to prohibit a homeless camp from being located in downtown Longview and directed staff to bring back new location proposals. Longview Assistant City Manager Kris Swanson said staff re-evaluated the previous list of locations after discussions with a company that builds pallet homes.
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The new proposals include half of the southern Gerhart Gardens parking lot bordering the dog park, as well as part of the roadway on Memorial Park Drive between Shelby Place and 38th Avenue near a Head Start preschool and residences. Neither locations have been reviewed by the council before.
City staff evaluated whether to house pallet homes or a place for people to live out of their vehicles in the northern Gerhart Gardens parking lot, but recently found the lot was in a flood zone, Swanson said.
Memorial Park Drive was added to the short list of possible locations because it scored the best out of six city-owned right of ways recently reviewed by staff, she added.
The site on Memorial Park Drive would be located directly on the street, beginning west of the turn-in for the Head Start and extending toward the local office for the Bonneville Power Administration, according to city documents.
Drafts of the proposed locations from the city include possible spots for the 50 pallet homes, as well as bathrooms, laundry rooms and offices.
Head Start Program Director Mindy Leasure said Lower Columbia College, which operates the preschool, was notified by city staff Tuesday evening of the location consideration. Leasure and LCC President Chris Bailey have sent letters to the City Council and staff sharing concerns about the site.
“This is the first school experience for young children and families, so we want it to be a welcoming, emotionally safe environment,” Leasure said.
People walk around the Alabama Street and Oregon Way homeless camp in April 2021 in Longview. City Council is reviewing whether to keep a managed homeless encampment with pallet homes at the site.
Leasure said she hoped the city would extend the public comment period past one night to allow the community to “share their support or concerns for that project.”
In a 5-2 vote on Sept. 8, the council also voted for city staff to make a deposit on 50 pallet homes to be built at the undetermined camp location. Swanson said the pallet homes can’t be ordered until a location is set.
“We can’t make an order, we can’t enter an agreement to host it. Everything is contingent upon a site selection,” Swanson said.
On Thursday afternoon, Longview’s executive office issued a statement addressing the debate around how the city has handled creating a managed homeless site with pallet homes. The release said the city’s top priority was the “peace, health and prosperity of Longview,” with a goal of outreach to unhoused residents and police enforcement against criminals at the encampment.
“Knowing what we now know, with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, there have been failures and mistakes made along the way,” the statement reads. “Each of these moments represents an opportunity to learn and move forward. We are committed to doing that.”
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