Walla Walla homeless camp to move to Fort Walla Walla park
WALLA WALLA, Wash. — The Walla Walla City Council voted on Wednesday night to relocate the temporary homeless camp to an empty area near the Fort Walla Walla museum.
The council faced hours of discussion with community members, many arguing it’s current location near the Veterans Memorial Golf Course off Par 72 Drive is a detriment to the nearby neighborhood and the family-friendly area.
Many residents told council of their personal impacts, finding trash and even hypodermic needles on their properties. One father said a bloodied man scared his child by banging on their window. Others said the council is enabling the homeless with this camp.
“Why does the city feel obligated to provide a camp for vagrants? We have a vagrancy law that we’re not enforcing,” said Ed Bloom.
City Manager Nabiel Shawa presented a list of 11 options for relocation to the council after being overwhelmed with complaints of where the camp is now. Shawa said only four of the options are really possible. The main necessities of a new location are accessibility for both emergency crews and campers, a minimal perceived impact to local residents and businesses, and a small amount of zoning restrictions for the more than half acre of land.
The city does not have money set aside to develop this homeless camp.
After many considerations, Shawa said Fort Walla Walla comes out on top of the list. The city looked at Fort Walla Walla as an option originally in November and brought it back up in January before deciding on the location on Par 72 Drive.
Shawa said there is an empty space near the abandoned amphitheater where the camp would be sheltered and somewhat out of view of the nearby Fort Walla Walla Museum.
Members of the Walla Walla Homeless Alliance expressed concern that there are no nearby bus stop and residents of the camp would have a longer walk to downtown soup kitchens and services. Although members of the Alliance said they will help set up 35 temporary shelter structures where ever council thinks is best.
“I love the saying it takes a village to raise a child. It takes a village just to do anything. Tomorrow I will be celebrating my eight year anniversary on me becoming a home owner,” said Annet Bovent.
Bovent was previously homeless and said she benefit from a camp like the one being discussed.
Members of the Blue Mountain Audubon Society addressed council, upset that the camp would be near nature trails they are developing for children to learn from.
At the end of a five hour meeting, the council voted 6-1 to move the camp to Fort Walla Walla, although one councilman wanted to get rid of the camp all together.
“We’ve listened to half of Walla Walla by now and we are no closer to finding a solution that is the responsibility of the city,” said Councilman Jim Barrow, making a motion to disestablish the camp.
“I believe the time to pull the plug on this experiment is here,” said Barrow.
Barrow was met with loud applause from residents wanting to end the camp.
Shawa said the camp should be moved within the next 30 days.