City of Wenatchee’s “Safe Park” Already Having Positive Impact on Homeless Issue
The City of Wenatchee’s “Safe Park,” which opened at the end of September to assist the area’s homeless population, has proven to be a successful solution to a difficult problem thus far.
The park, which is located at 1450 South Wenatchee Avenue next to the Wenatchee Rescue Mission, is designed to give those who are living in mobile homes, camper trailers, and other vehicles a place to park on a temporary basis without occupying a city street or a lot private property.
Mayor Frank Kuntz says the idea was derived from another city in Washington with similar issues.
“We sort of copied Vancouver’s model and said ‘hey, can we get a place where there’s a couple of porta-potties and a dumpster where you can’t hoard and you get a spot to stay with a little area around your camper - give them a place where they can sort of hang out and get them some services, including transitional housing’.”
The park can accommodate roughly fifteen or sixteen vehicles and has been at full occupancy since opening.
Although the new facility has made a significant impact in curtailing the number of homeless people sheltering in vehicles within city limits, Kuntz says there’s still a need for more space.
“Right now, my goal is just to find another spot for the next ten or twelve campers that we think are looking for a more permanent place to stay. And most of these people are folks from the area, like Wenatchee, East Wenatchee or elsewhere in Chelan and Douglas Counties. But if they are from somewhere else, like Seattle or Eugene, Oregon or Everett, we’ll probably be trying to send them back where they came from.”
The initial “Safe Park” is located on property owned by the city, but Kuntz says the second will need to be purchased from private ownership, and that’s proven challenging thus far.
The “Safe Park” in South Wenatchee was realized after the approval of a $1.5 million contract with the Wenatchee Rescue Mission which is to include a second “Safe Park,” along with a 45-unit low-barrier shelter and an outreach program.
The city is paying the rescue mission roughly $500,000 annually to manage the park and its residents.