Tenant Protections, Camp Sweeps in Olympia

Eviction Moratorium Extended until July

The biggest issue at the October 6 Olympia City Council meeting spilled over into the October 13 meeting. Hence, I decided to hold off and write about both at once. That issue was the passing of an emergency ordinance regarding tenant protections related to COVID-19.

Several people n attendance spoke on this issue. There was concern that the ordinance extended the protections too far out, making it more difficult for people to get out from under the debt they accrue. After much discussion, it was determined that the ordinance would protect tenants from through July 1, 2021. Keep in mind this is only to protect people who can’t pay because of an issue related to the COVID-19 pandemic. You also are required to arrange to repay rent in an installment plan. Here is a copy of the ordinance if you wish to read it. 

The agenda also included 2 rental assistance flyers: CAC Rental Assistance Flyer and the CYC Rental Assistance Flyer.

During public comment, people asked that the city pass an ordinance for rent forgiveness, to which Councilmember Dani Madrone responded that she feels that rent forgiveness is beyond the council’s scope.

The City’s Got Big Plans

There were also discussions of the city’s Wastewater Management and Capital Facilities plans. Both of these are hugely important and often ignored by the general public. That said, they should be discussed by someone who has studied them much more thoroughly than me. I will say I did not hear anything that was too concerning on these.

Indigenous Peoples’ Day

The newly elected Squaxin Island Tribal Chairman Kris Peters was present for special recognition. The City of Olympia recognized October 12, 2020, as Indigenous Peoples’ Day, which was first identified in Olympia in 2015. Chairman Peters discussed the City’s critical work working with the tribes in partnership, the importance of being good stewards of the land. He also discussed Squaxin’s COVID-19 response.

City Moving Forward With Annual Camp Sweeps (just in time for winter)

During public comment at the October 13 meeting, several people also discussed their concerns about the planned sweep of the RVs and cars parked on Ensign Rd just south of the Providence Hospital Emergency entrance. This encampment has been on Ensign Rd for several months now. The people who live there have created a strong community that works together to keep everyone safe, fed, and healthy—many expressed concerns about the loss of this community they have built. 

I am also concerned about the camp being swept just before the November 3rd election, as this could cause voter disenfranchisement. I am also worried about the camp being moved so close to the beginning of winter. One thing unsheltered people need is community. People need to know who they can trust to help them in an emergency, where they can get resources, and not be at risk of losing the resources they have. All of that is at risk of being lost in a sweep. Sweeps often mean loss of property and displacement with no secure place to go to. It also appears that the City has discussed this sweep for quite some time without reaching out to the campers. This community is like a city inside our city. They have rules, leaders, jobs, and spokespeople. To learn they were not included in the discussion is disheartening, to say the least.  

I highly encourage people to participate in our Olympia City Council meetings and committee meetings. You can learn when meetings are and what is on the agenda here.

If you cannot attend but want to make a public comment, you can email the council at citycouncil@ci.olympia.wa.us

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By Tracey Carlos

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