“People don’t just disappear,” Spinelli said. “When we make them leave a certain area, they move to the next block or the next available piece of land.”
Camp removals and cleanups can be traumatic for the people living there, especially for those with mental health challenges, but Chavers said they are necessary to ensure everyone’s safety. In 2021, roughly 30 people died while experiencing homelessness in Clark County, according to Council for the Homeless.
“Most of the folks that are unsheltered outside that we have relationships with, they were thrilled to see that it’s time to clean it up, because they know they can come back eventually,” Chavers said. “We’ll continue to educate folks about what the expectations are with regards to how much stuff can accumulate. It’ll just be an ongoing process, much like we’ve done in the past. But we just can’t afford to let it get so big and so out of control with regards to the amount of trash.”
New options expand
More shelter options are becoming available in Clark County, such as Safe Stay Communities, shelters in renovated hotels, tiny-home clusters and the Safe Parking Zone. On May 16, the Vancouver Housing Authority held a grand-opening ceremony for a three-story , 40-unit assisted-living facility that, when it opens soon, will provide critical housing and support for formerly homeless individuals with complex behavioral and physical health challenges, according to Roy Johnson, executive director for the Vancouver Housing Authority.
Eventually, Chavers said, he hopes that homelessness as it exists today will be eradicated from Clark County.