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Downtown Vancouver site being considered for a third homeless village

Vancouver is considering a third location for a Safe Stay Community for the homeless. It’s still tentative but the prospect of it concerns some neighbors.

VANCOUVER, Wash. — Vancouver is considering a third location for a "Safe Stay Community" for people experiencing homelessness. It’s still tentative but one site being considered is a bit different from the other two that are already in place.

The site to be considered is now a big open parking lot between Daniels and Esther Streets and W 11th and Evergreen; it's in downtown Vancouver and on the edge of a neighborhood. 

There is a lot of history in downtown Vancouver, including some beautiful old homes and the Briar Rose Inn, open since 2006. It was a nearly decade long labor of love to renovate the inn for Sallie Reavey and her husband, as the bed and breakfast is their retirement business. The prospect of a city-sanctioned homeless community as neighbors concerns Reavey.

"I'm not sure how it's going to affect our business, I’m not sure how it's going to affect me or my husband personally, because we live here,” said Reavey.

Vancouver has two safe stay communities currently. Each one can host up to 40 people. They are secured spaces with tiny homes and support to finding a way out of homelessness. The first community opened late last year off SR 500 at NE Gher Road, and the most recent community opened along Fourth Plain Boulevard. Both are well east of downtown Vancouver.

RELATED: Vancouver's first Safe Stay Community after 6 months: What's worked, what hasn't

“I would understand why someone without much knowledge of what these spaces are like would be nervous,” said Vancouver’s homeless response coordinator Jamie Spinelli.

She said if they do open a site downtown, it will be like the first two. 

What’s Spinelli’s response to concerned neighbors?

“I suppose I would try to quell some fears; our data shows that police calls have been down around this site the need for emergency services of all kinds have been down at this sight, it is successfully moving people into permanent housing, into treatment, into employment,” said Spinelli referring to the first sight called The Outpost and operated by non-profit Outsiders Inn.

Reavey said she supports ending homelessness but thinks opening a sanctioned camp in her neighborhood could attract more of the trouble they've already seen.

“That's a good thing, but who knows what it's really going do, is it going to invite the cancer into our community,” said Reavey.

RELATED: Vancouver is facing a homeless crisis

“We've had many problems with the homeless people, everybody around here has, but we just sort of put up with it. But this to us feels like it's getting worse, and we don't want to turn into another Portland,” said the inn owner.

The site has not been officially selected as the city council must first sign off on a licensing agreement with the landowner before they look closely at the site.

“And then we would move forward with announcing it to the community, giving notice to everyone within 1200 feet, and then going through that whole community feedback process that we go through with every site,” said Spinelli. 

And with every site, the city puts in a 1000-foot buffer zone where no unsanctioned camping is allowed.

The city council takes up the first step, an agreement with the property owner, at its next council meeting on Monday Sept. 19.

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