Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Toilets And Water At One Tacoma Homeless Encampment Are Temporary. So What Happens Next?

Tacoma officials' plan to reduce the impacts of homelessness on public health began this month with the installation of a water line and portable toilets at one of the city's largest encampments.

But those amenities are scheduled to be on-site for six weeks at most. City leaders are still figuring out exactly what happens next. 

What's clear is that whoever's left at the site at that point will be moved to a new location -- something that sounds like the sanctioned tent cities or tiny house villages of Seattle. 

"Think of a managed, authorized site," said Pamela Duncan, who runs Tacoma's Human Services programs. "There are people who do prefer to stay outside and we are taking that into consideration as we plan for the site. There are folks who prefer to stay in their tents." 

Duncan said city officials are still settling on a location for the authorized site, where a variety of services will be available. 

All this is new for Tacoma. Earlier this month, City Council members declared Tacoma's more than 50 encampments a "public health emergency" and began working on a plan to reduce health and safety impacts on homeless people and the city at large.

"We recognize that this effort will not solve or end homelessness," Duncan said. "This is addressing the public safety and public health concerns stemming from the inhumane conditions in the encampments." 

A latter phase of the plan will focus more intensely on housing, city spokeswoman Gwen Schuler said.

Will James is a former KNKX reporter and was part of the special projects team, reporting and producing podcasts such as Outsiders and The Walk Home.