Tacoma neighbors rally against a second transitional homeless site

TACOMA , Wash. -- Neighbors along Pacific Avenue in Tacoma held a community meeting on Wednesday night to make sure the city knew their backyard should not be considered for a homeless site.

Tacoma declared a homeless state of emergency last month, and have since tried to open different emergency shelter sites around the city to deal with the growing homeless population. One of those sites is on Portland Avenue, another site is on Puyallup.

The city says it’s not considering using their property along Pacific Avenue and South 34th Street.

Before the meeting on Wednesday, several neighbors gathered along the Pacific Avenue sidewalk, picketing for support.

“We want the city to know, ‘don’t consider us,’” said Patrick Fischer, president of the Lincoln South Neighborhood Watch. “Don’t consider this lot. Don’t consider any lot near here.”

There are several tents already on the property, a makeshift encampment that Fischer said is creating problems for neighbors. He said if the city added a transitional site there, it would only encourage more people to come.

“There’s constant screaming and activity over here in the middle of the night,” said Scott Maziar, president of the East Abes Neighborhood Watch team.

The city said they know of the problem behind Maziar and Fischer’s homes, and they are working on it.

A homeless mitigation site on Portland opened at the beginning of June. Emergency services, water and toilets are being provided while the city builds a more permanent housing encampment for the homeless, called a transitional site. That transitional site has already been slated on Puyallup.

“The original plan said they were going to have two transition sites,” said Fischer. “The most recent version of that Power Point only has one transition center. All of a sudden they are trying to ally our fears that this is not going to be one of them,” he said.

When asked directly, City Manager Elizabeth Pauli said the city is not considering Pacific Avenue as a location.

“There is no site going forward at that address and there is no plan for that address,” she said.

Pauli said the council looks at factors for potential sites, and one of the conditions that could take Pacific out of the running would be the close proximity to neighborhoods.

That being said, she added that she understood why neighbors are fearful. When the mayor gave her homeless directive, Pauli said the city did not seek feedback like they will in the future.

“Before we selected those sites, we had a very limited outreach given the emergency nature of the response. Any subsequent site will have our full-blown outreach efforts,” she said, adding it will include community notification and request for comment.