Two Tacoma properties being considered as homeless shelters

The City of Tacoma has identified two properties for use as potential sites for shelters aiding people experiencing homelessness.

One property is a 13,000-square-foot, empty lot located at 8208 Pacific Ave. in Tacoma’s South End neighborhood. Staff believe 20-25 people could be served at the site.

The second is an undeveloped 33,000-square-foot site located near 3901 33rd St. NE in Northeast Tacoma, and could serve between 40-50.

Both properties are owned by Tacoma Public Utilities and were identified as part of a search of 700 publicly owned properties earlier this year. Using the two properties would require Tacoma Public Utility Board approval and community outreach, which is likely to include notices in the mail and public forums, if staff decides to move forward with the locations.

“Staff is currently evaluating the sites for possible uses and models,” said city spokesperson Megan Snow. “If determined feasible and a provider is willing to assist with operations, the site(s) would provide basic sanitation and security, with the potential for providers to offer onsite services.”

City staff have been searching for a property to open a low-barrier shelter site in its efforts to tackle homelessness across the city. It’s not clear what exactly the sites would look like.

The city also is working with Pierce County on a newly formed Pierce County Ad Hoc Committee to End Homelessness, a 10-member committee created by the county to put together a short-term plan to end street homelessness by Nov 1. that includes, in part, expanding capacity for available shelter.

On July 13, staff sought feedback from City Council on the two properties.

Some Council members encouraged staff to get more shelters set up as quickly as possible.

“It seems to me that we don’t have a lot of options, and that if we keep not moving forward with setting up a site that’s going to be useful and accessible to as many people as possible, we’re going to continue to spin our wheels as it relates to addressing homelessness in the city of Tacoma,” Deputy Mayor Keith Blocker said at last week’s meeting.

Others Council members expressed their concerns with the two locations, specifically the Northeast Tacoma property, worrying about lack of access to nearby services.

“That’s a constant refrain from Northeast Tacoma, is that there isn’t enough bus services,” said Council member Robert Thoms, who represents the area in District 2.

Council member Conor McCarthy echoed the concern about lack of access to services, and urged the city to address current encampments while seeking additional shelter beds.

“I truly believe that we can’t address homelessness in Tacoma until we address the encampments. Those two things are connected,” he said.

Council member John Hines encouraged public involvement when seeking use of the two properties.

“I think anything less than kind of having a clear plan laid out to the public with these two sites … will not be well received,” he said.

Allison Needles covers city and education news for The News Tribune in Tacoma. She was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest.

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