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Vancouver is facing a homeless crisis

Despite a safe stay village recently opening and two more slated to open, there will still be hundreds of people on Clark County's streets.

VANCOUVER, Wash. — In January 2020, it was estimated that there were 916 people without housing in Clark County.

In December 2021, Vancouver's first "Safe Stay" community opened, which can accommodate up to 40 people. For those living in their vehicles, there is a safe parking zone with more than 50 spaces for cars and RVs at the Evergreen Transit Center.

The city plans to open at least two more Safe Stay communities, one in spring on a city-owned property on East Fourth Plain Boulevard, and another in the fall. 

For people like Shelly Wong, these villages are not the answer. Wong has lived in her truck in Vancouver for the last four years. She is on disability and makes $900 a month. She has done what she can to make her truck more livable, including installing a bed and a heater.

“I am a 52-year-old disabled woman,” said Wong. “I can’t rent an apartment for $900 a month. It’s about affordable housing – why I am on the streets alone.”

She said she has reached out to try and find help but despite making contact with a few agencies in the area she was told there were no spots open anywhere.

“I would like to be in an apartment I could afford,” said Wong. “I feel embarrassed when I get out of my truck. People think, ‘Oh there's a homeless person.’ I'm not homeless by choice.”

Wong said she thinks the city is making progress but hopes that it leads to a change in her living situation soon.

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