Video footage from a drone flying over property along the Chehalis River has again pushed Aberdeen’s homeless population into the light. Posted by Facebook user Lenny Lee earlier this week, the video shows campers, campfires, garbage, and blue tarps, between the train tracks and the river where several people have been living on private property.
Aberdeen Mayor Erik Larson said last week on CoffeeTalk that they’ve been trying to track down the owner of the property, “So right now I’m not sure who owns it because we received a letter that it was in foreclosure.”
After receiving much criticism over the way the city handled the issue in the past, Larson said they’re hoping the second verse will be different than the first. “We went through a year ago and we cleared everybody out of there. That caused a lot of problems for some of the low-lying residential neighborhood and for the businesses downtown. So we’re trying to be more coordinated in how we address that moving forward and try to deal with the negative aspects of it but not push that issue into our business districts.”
Addressed or not, the homeless population in Aberdeen has only grown since April 2015, when the Code Compliance department told the campers to vacate and cited the owners for unsafe living conditions.
Advocates have been trying to find some common ground – or even just some ground where the campers can live but without a change to city code, their hands are tied. The problem is compounded by the city’s zoning ordinance, which doesn’t allow camping. You could be fined for allowing people to camp on your property, but you’re not required to kick them off – and if you don’t tell the city that the people are trespassing then the police cannot remove them either.
The public Facebook post on Lenny Lee’s feed has been reached nearly 40,000 views and shared nearly 800 times.