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Finding creative solutions to Tacoma’s homeless crisis

It can take months, sometimes even years, to shut down and clean up nuisance properties that attract crime and violence. Keeping them clean is a different kind of challenge, one that takes consistent attention and creative tactics.

Such is the case with the former Calico Cat Motel in Tacoma.

For years, the motel on Pacific Avenue was notorious for drugs, prostitution and other criminal activity. In November, the Calico Cat was shut down by the Tacoma Pierce County Health Department because of methamphetamine contamination.

RELATED: Pierce County cracking down on drug dens

The owners of the motel, which has now been renamed the Pacific Lodge, have spent their life savings on the cleanup efforts.

Andrew Kim tells The News Tribune, they share the concern of neighbors who worry if the motel re-opens, it could again be used as a resting place for criminals. So, he was glad to get a call from the city as Tacoma works to identify ways to deal with the homeless crisis.

“To put families, homeless veterans, that are working and that are living in cars, that need a place to stay,” Kim told The News Tribune. “Hopefully that would change things around.”

It would be killing two birds with one stone: Housing the homeless and keeping the motel from falling into disrepair.

Tanisha Jumper is the Program Manager of Tacoma 2025, the city’s strategic plan for the future, which includes a three-part effort to address homelessness.

Jumper explained that using the Pacific Lodge is just an idea at this point, but it is one that they’re seriously considering.

“If we can come to an agreement, and it fits the needs of the people in the current stabilization site, if there are people who just need a roof and minimal services, then we can make the Pacific Lodge proposition work,” Jumper said.

Whether that would mean leasing the property or purchasing it is unknown. One thing they do know for sure is that if the city uses the motel, they will use the entire property.

“Obviously we’d be putting vulnerable people in there and so we’d want to make sure that it was a safe place for them,” Jumper explained. “And based on the reputation, the former reputation, we wouldn’t want to be co-mingling people.”

The final decision may depend largely on the needs of the people who recently moved in to Tacoma’s temporary stability site, which is being managed by Catholic Social Services. If the clients need more services, like drug or alcohol treatment, Pacific Lodge would not be a suitable fit.

Whatever the city decides to do, the funding is already in place. Last month, Tacoma set aside $3.4 million for its efforts to combat the homeless crisis.

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