UPDATE: 10.16.20 6:23PM
The city of Olympia is telling residents of vehicles parked along Ensign Road near St. Peter Hospital that they must move those vehicles by October 27.
The city plans to begin its official notification of the residents on October 20, Kellie Braseth, the city’s strategic communications director, said Friday.
Information obtained by The Tribune states the city is moving the residents because “the daily activities of the roughly 60 people parked on Ensign Road has been impeding and slowing emergency vehicles bound for St. Peter Hospital Emergency Room” and that the Olympia Fire Department has “issued guidance to first responders to reroute to Lilly Road when responding to St. Peter. The change in route has added critical minutes to emergency vehicle response times that could have life or death consequences,” the information says.
The guidance does not in fact say responders should reroute only to Lilly Road. It does say, in part: “… Emergency responses on Ensign Rd NE, as it currently stands, creates a safety hazard. The Department provides the following guidance, when responding code 3 (meaning use lights and sirens) to PSPH, it is recommended that the Lilly Rd. NE to Ensign Rd. NE be the primary access route. If you do choose to use the Ensign Rd. NE from Martin Way route, drive defensively in preparation of avoiding a collision with a pedestrian.” It also does not mention vehicle response times being hindered.
Employees at St. Peter Hospital have been notified as well. One posted on social media earlier today: “The whole thing seems really sketchy. I drive by there every day for work and sometimes bike and have never been made to feel unsafe (if employees *feel* unsafe, I would argue it’s because we are conditioned to view poverty as unsafe) and I have a hard time believing they are impeding emergency access. On occasion, things do spill over into the bike lane but I have never seen anything in the road”.
Once the RVs have been moved, no parking will be allowed in the area in which they now are located, which also is popular for people who work at nearby businesses, including the hospital. “The no parking rule will apply to everyone. It will certainly be an inconvenience for the workers at the businesses. Hopefully there will be some capacity in the nearby lots, which could help,” Braseth said, “The city will continue to work with the businesses on the issue.”
The information says city staff has been working with residents to connect them to social services. Braseth said Friday evening that the city’s Homeless Services staff have been doing outreach on Ensign Road for more than six months and have asked service providers to get in touch with their clients on Ensign Road to make sure they know the move is coming. “This week staff set up a spot for three hours out there and our Ambassadors were able to get six people their IDs,” she said, adding that staff also have worked with residents to connect them with housing services. Staff is setting up another day of outreach, she said.
This is the second group of RVs that have been relocated in as many months. In September, the state removed RVs from Deschutes Parkway during a repaving project and has not allowed them back. Some of those residents subsequently re-located to Ensign Road.
The city acknowledges re-location may be difficult.
“While the parkers cannot stay on Ensign Road because of the risks to health and safety, where they will go is the real challenge of the homelessness crisis, particularly during a global pandemic,” says the city.
It also provides some brief information on where the residents may re-locate – some to the city mitigation site and some to hotel rooms. Braseth said work is ongoing to determine the availability of space and how much it will cost.