How is freeway encampment clearing going?
Jan 4, 2024, 9:50 AM | Updated: 10:27 am
(Photo from WSDOT)
We still see tents along the sides of our freeways, but the state has made progress in clearing some of the most dangerous camps.
It’s been just under two years since the legislature started the Rights of Way Safety Initiative. The goal was to remove homeless encampments from state properties along the freeways where tents and 70 mile an hour traffic are a dangerous mix.
The reason I took a look at the latest stats this week is because I just made my first trip through Olympia in a few months last week. The Washington Department of Transportation had just started adding boulders to the north side of Interstate 5 near Sleater-Kinney Road when I last went through in October. That homeless camp was massive, not only taking over the grassy areas near the on and off ramps there but along the freeway shoulder.
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The entire shoulder is now bouldered. The grassy area is just posted “no trespassing.”
This camp is one of the latest cleared by the state. According to the latest data, there were 152 people at the camp and 130 of them accepted housing and help under the rights of way initiative, which is now called the Encampment Resolution Program.
This camp is one of the largest tackled by the state so far. Only Camp Hope in Spokane and the encampments near I-5 and I-90 in Seattle had more people. The state has been working on 33 encampments in King, Pierce, Snohomish, Thurston and Spokane Counties.
It has cleared and closed 31 of them so far. Only the camps at the Smokey Point rest areas and a property in Thurston County remain.
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Of the 1,630 people at those camps, 1,068 accepted housing. That’s 65%.
Off those who accepted housing, 78% are still in some form of housing. Most of it is temporary housing. Only 8% have found something permanent.
Over all, only 51% of the total number of people in the 33 camps are still in housing.
The legislature set aside $143-million. $80-million has been spent so far. For those 836 people still in housing, that breaks down to about $96,000 per person.
These numbers go through November. The final 2023 numbers should be out in a few weeks.