No trespass order dissipates downtown homeless camp

About 10-15 people sheltered under awning and in storefronts on Market Street

A prominent homeless encampment in Aberdeen’s downtown core dissipated Thursday when the owner of a building on Market Street signed a no trespass order for the storefronts under which 10-15 people sought shelter.

Cmdr. Steve Timmons of the Aberdeen Police Department said police and the property owner visited the 200 block of Market Street on Nov. 29 to inform people camping in vacant store alcoves, and under a long flat awning that they would from now on be cited for trespassing if dwelling on the building owner’s private property, and gave the campers until the following day to relocate with their belongings. People sheltered under the awning Wednesday evening with several shopping carts, tents, tarps and other items, and most left Thursday.

Timmons said the no trespass order signed by the property owners applies only to the two vacant store alcoves located on E Market Street, and the two parking lots on either side of those buildings.

The trespass order does not apply to the public sidewalk in front of the building. Police cannot enforce camping ordinances on public sidewalks because there is no local homeless shelter available, Timmons said.

According to the Grays Harbor County Assessor’s Office, the four parcels with new trespass enforcement rules are owned by First Developments, LLC, and were bought in 2015. A MapQuest search lists Nguyen Realty as an associated business for that address. Phone calls to the business on Thursday went unanswered.

Residents of the Market Street encampment said the business owner informed them this week about plans to develop the property. The storefronts, located directly across the street from the police station and city hall, have been vacant for “quite a while,” Timmons said.

Previously, police had no authority to enforce trespassing on the empty storefronts without an official trespass notice signed by the property owner. Timmons said people have used the area to shelter in years past, but the encampment grew more populous in the last several months.

“That is a good building to kind of hangout because it does have that good overhang,” said Laina Moore, behavioral health navigator for the three central Grays Harbor police departments.

Moore, who helps facilitate the relationship between the police department and the homeless community during camp relocations and cleanups, said the Market Street camp has a lower frequency of violence and drug use than the larger River Street camp near the Chehalis River.

Moore said some people on Market Street “feel safer being by the police station. They would be victimized over in the other unhoused community.”

Crystal Mason, a resident of the Market Street camp, said on Wednesday evening her tentative plan was to relocate to the River Street camp, which she called “tent city.”

“You’re being forced to move from a spot where you’re actually … you’re okay,” Mason said. “It’s your own little spot, you’re not bothering anybody, you’re not causing any problems or ruckus, but you’re being threatened by handcuffs if you continue to stay.”

“If they want to make it better, don’t make it so hard for us,” Mason continued. “Help us to help you. If you want us off the streets, then provide more resources for us.”

Dustin Garloff, another resident of the camp, said on Thursday the decision by the property owner to sign the trespass order is “understandable. Anybody would want that.”

“But if we don’t have a place to go, what are we supposed to do?” he added.

Through contracts with human service agencies, Grays Harbor County has funded a temporary, low barrier homeless shelter in the county during the winter months for the past several years. Grays Harbor County Public Health initiated the program again in September but received no shelter proposals from service providers. The county’s board of commissioners opted to use the more than $500,000 in homelessness funding to expand an existing hotel voucher program, enhance street outreach and connection to resources and purchase winter survival items.

Aberdeen Mayor Pete Schave made several recommendations to addressing homelessness in the city’s 2024 preliminary budget, including purchasing two public restrooms for the downtown core and assisting Grays Harbor County “in purchasing property for the specific purpose of creating a homeless shelter.”

Schave and County Commissioner Kevin Pine have led an effort to find a shelter location but have not disclosed any potential locations.

“We don’t have control over the shelter right now, but we can help people stay safe, dry and warm out here,” said Annie Montgomery, a case worker with Destination Hope and Recovery.

The agency was not recently funded through the county’s cold weather shelter contract, but employees were on Market Street Thursday helping homeless residents transition to new locations. Montgomery said displacement can sometimes be a good opportunity for people to seek treatment services for substance use, or other programs.

“We make sure those paths are clear,” Montgomery said.

Another recommendation that officials made to displaced residents on Market Street, Moore said, was to seek shelter and services in larger cities, where permanent, supportive housing is more prevalent. According to Moore, local police departments have funding for bus transportation. Grays Harbor Transit recently announced it will supply free fares for 2024.

Moore referenced services “within a 50-mile radius” in Olympia, such as shelters as well as a new tiny home village. She said many people in the homeless community have been kicked out of the Union Gospel Mission shelter in Aberdeen.

“It’s hard to encourage people to want to stay here and keep doing what they’re doing,” Moore said Thursday. “It is better to advise, if this is something you want — it’s always self-directed — you’re better served to get to the I-5 corridor where the resources are.”

She added, “It’s not that we want to displace people, it’s a simple regional fact: we are a rural community with limited resources.”

Contact reporter Clayton Franke at 406-552-3917 or