Outreach & Encampments
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, Washington County has seen a dramatic increase in unsanctioned camping on public and private property over the last several months. In response, the Department of Housing Services, with support from the Emergency Operations Center, has been working collaboratively with allied agencies and community partners to address the needs of residents who have been impacted by COVID-19, including those experiencing houselessness and housing instability. This work was also supported through significant federal CARES Act funding which ended on December 30, 2020.
In an effort to adhere to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance on homeless encampments, Washington County has temporarily suspended enforcement of its camping ordinance during the pandemic. Per the CDC, "if individual housing options are not available, allow people who are living unsheltered or in encampments to remain where they are. Clearing encampments can cause people to disperse throughout the community and break connections with service providers. This increases the potential for infectious disease spread."
The emergency response to assist houseless individuals living in Washington County has included a range of strategies intended to decrease the spread of COVID-19 and improve access to supportive services:
- Specially-trained outreach workers who visit encampments and work to connect people to existing resources
- Hotel voucher system for physically and medically fragile individuals
- Managed respite shelter for COVID positive individuals to recover from the disease
- Winter Shelter System operating in various locations across the county from November 2020 through March 2021
- Hospital Discharge Shelter
- Safe Sleep Village and Safe Sleep RV Parking Program (now closed due to expiration of CARES Act funding)
- Sanitation management including portable toilets and garbage collection receptacles
- Handwashing stations and personal hygiene supplies
While the COVID-19 crisis continues, Washington County greatly appreciates the patience of community members who live in the vicinity of such camps. We will continue to work diligently to seek solutions that acknowledge these very understandable concerns and also address the unmet needs of our most vulnerable neighbors. Nearby residents who have safety concerns regarding potential criminal activity are encouraged to contact their local law enforcement agency by calling the countywide non-emergency dispatch center at 503-629-0111. In the event of an immediate threat to life or property, please dial 9-1-1 for an emergency response.
For more information about Washington County's efforts to end homelessness, please visit https://www.co.washington.or.us/Housing/EndHomelessness/index.cfm.