LONGVIEW, Wash. — For more than three years, a large homeless camp has caused major issues for the city of Longview, Washington.
The camp was located off Alabama Street and Oregon Way near a residential area and local businesses. The situation led the city to declare a public health and safety emergency in August as they struggled to find a solution.
The former location of that homeless camp is now “Hope Village”— a tiny home community for homeless people led by the Salvation Army.
“I was staying in the camp, the tent city, for eight months,” said Natasha Krakenberg, who was previously living in a tent and now has a pod to call home.
“You don’t have to freeze, you have a safe place to come back to, you don’t have to worry about your belongings being stolen,” she said.
Krakenberg has a case manager and is working toward finding permanent housing and a job.
“There’s a degree of them that are only a step away from housing, they have more resources than you think sometimes,” added Major Philip Smith with the Salvation Army.
There are 50 units in Hope Village, complete with hot meals, heat, showers and a laundry room. Nearly all of the pods are filled.
Drugs, alcohol, and weapons aren’t allowed inside the village, however people don’t have to be sober to qualify for a bed. The site has been open for about a month.
“It was all during a real cold season, so it was life-threatening — that was the big push for us,” said Smith.
Their goal is to move people into permanent housing within 90 days, which is an ambitious task for case workers like Hollie Hillman, who said there’s a lack of affordable housing in Longview.
“There’s so many things that go into it. People think, 'Oh just house them.' No, there’s way more,” she explained.
It’s a struggle she’s faced for years and wonders why it took the city so long to build a village like this one.
“Very frustrating. It was like kicking the can down the road all the time, going to city council meetings, talking and talking and talking and nothing was changing,” she said.
The Salvation Army just gave the city their first month’s report. In about three weeks, they moved one person into permanent housing and another is moving into housing this week.
"It really does give you hope that you can get your life together," said Krakenberg.
The city of Longview provided a statement to KGW about the opening of the village. It read in part, "HOPE Village provides a better environment for unsheltered individuals in our community – a place to get back on their feet, out of the cold, a roof over their heads and get them on a path to wellness ... For our community, the opening of HOPE Village means long-awaited relief after years of challenges of homelessness and tent encampments."