Aberdeen makes offer to purchase lot for long-term homeless facility

The City of Aberdeen has targeted a vacant lot at 421 S Michigan St. as the preferred location to build a long-term homeless camping facility, and could approve the site’s purchase at Wednesday’s Aberdeen City Council Meeting. The lot sits just opposite the southern end of the riverfront property that had been a longtime homeless encampment before the city cleared it in July.

In a press release, Mayor Erik Larson said the city has reached an agreement to purchase the site pending the approval of the council at the Aug. 28 meeting.

The land purchase agreement on the council’s agenda states that the city would pay $60,000 for the property, as agreed upon by both the city and the landowners. The sellers are listed as David R Stajcar, Sharon Werth, and Duane Edward Joseph Stajcar on the land purchase agreement, which is provided in next week’s council agenda.

On July 15, the city opened the “Temporary Alternative Shelter Location,” which is essentially a city-run tent camping site in the parking lot behind City Hall and is fenced-in. The temporary site was opened to accommodate homeless people displaced after the city cleared a major encampment along the Chehalis River, but Larson’s goal was to eventually purchase property and open a longer-term camping site.

Larson said in an interview that the property at South Michigan Street was identified as the ideal location due to its proximity to social services, bus routes, and said it was chosen trying to limit “issues and impacts to residential neighborhoods and existing commercial businesses as much as possible, knowing it was never going to be completely possible.”

The property is 31,000 square feet, and sits next to the train tracks and several businesses on the same block adjacent to State Street.

When Larson and the city decided to clear the longtime homeless homeless encampment along the Chehalis River, one concern was that a train derailment and having people next to the train tracks was dangerous. Larson said it’s a fair criticism to point out that the proposed new camping site is next to the train tracks. But the mayor said issues with how the riverfront camps were isolated by the train tracks — including when police and fire personnel needed access — were a bigger driving force.

“It’s a fair criticism, the big key difference is there’s no need to cross the rail, and that was the biggest safety factor,” said Larson. “That isolation was a bigger concern than concerns of a derailment or other catastrophe.”

City staff have been considering several properties for a long-term camping site, but considered this as the ideal location.

The agenda also includes a recommendation for the mayor to purchase 150 WeatherHYDE tents for the new long-term shelter, at a price of $45,000. These tents would be intended to be more durable than those currently at City Hall.

The proposed purchases will be considered at the meeting Wednesday at 7:15 p.m. on the third floor of Aberdeen City Hall.

Larson added in his press release there will be a site tour of the existing Temporary Alternative Shelter Location behind City Hall Tuesday at 5 p.m. That tour is open to the public, and those interested should meet at the north side of City Hall at 5 p.m. Larson, council members and other staff will be on hand to answer questions about the current shelter and the long-term one.