The local Salvation Army will be running the next pallet home community for the homeless in Longview.
The city announced the partnership to run the shelter community, which has been named HOPE Village, Thursday afternoon. Fifty pallet homes are set to be built on Alabama Street in Longview in November after being approved by Longview City Council in recent weeks.
The village will be operated by the Longview Chapter of the Salvation Army with support from the Seattle Regional Office. As the site’s host organization, The Salvation Army will have an office amidst the pallet houses where it will help residents connect with counselors and case managers as they seek a permanent housing solution.
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“It was important to have someone with the experience, someone who had the infrastructure to scale and be able to operate one of these communities,” said the deputy town manager of Longview, Kris Swanson.
“We will continue to work closely with city leaders to ensure that we are able to provide a safe, healthy and orderly community that focuses on long-term housing and programs that guide individuals towards a hopeful future,” Jonathan Harvey, general secretary of the Salvation Army’s North West Division, said in a statement Thursday.
Longview views pallet homes as improved temporary shelters, not as a long-term solution for homeless people. Thursday’s announcement said the houses are “intended to be a first step in helping these people find permanent housing.”
The city came to terms with the Salvation Army over the past week using the emergency declaration. The emergency terms allowed the city to settle the contract without going through a bidding process, which some people criticized at Thursday’s council meeting as a lack of transparency. Swanson said the city was following the council’s direction starting in August and working on an aggressive schedule to replace the current camp.
The city and the Salvation Army are still negotiating the final details of the contract, including requirements for anyone staying in a pallet house and the final cost.
Longview Police see benefits of ‘enforcement blitz’
In addition to new site managers, the town’s announcement says the Longview Police Department has launched a “law enforcement blitz” in and around the current campground after complaints from neighbors about an alleged increase in nearby crime. Since late August, Longview Police have been conducting nighttime foot patrols in the Highlands neighborhood and the blocks around Alabama Street.
Captain Branden McNew said patrol officers were able to stop several break-ins in progress due to the increased presence. Officers also cracked down on citations for smaller offenses like illegal camping, taking shopping carts from stores and disorderly conduct. The result has been a sharp drop in criminal behavior, to the point where McNew said officers “got almost bored” on recent shifts.
“During the first few weeks, it was very easy to observe criminal behavior,” McNew said. “Officers going down there now see almost none.”
The police actions are supported by the presence of Northwest Enforcement, the private security company hired by the city to monitor the Alabama Street camp at night and on weekends. The security company focuses more on enforcing the rules within the camp than on serious crimes, which are reported to Longview Police.
Once the paddle community is in place, McNew said the department will likely reduce foot patrols due to the excessive overtime it requires.
“With our staffing levels, we cannot continue this work rate indefinitely with the number of officers we have,” McNew said.