The City of Olympia has notified people living in their RVs and vehicles along Ensign Road that they must leave by October 27th. At this time, no alternative location has been designated for people to move to and there is not a single place in Thurston County for people to camp in their vehicles who cannot pay daily rent.
The members of the Ensign Road RV Community and Just Housing Olympia are asking the City of Olympia to stay the sweep until a safe, legal, and suitable location is designated for people to move to. We are also asking all local jurisdictions to come to the table and work with others to designate and support an alternative location.
Take a few moments to explore the FAQ below to learn more about the situation and how you can get involved!
Ensign Road Sweep FAQ
What are the reasons being given to justify the sweep of this camp?
Providence St. Peter’s Hospital and medical clinics along Ensign Road have been advocating for the camp’s removal for months. The main concerns they have cited are; objects outside of RVs impacting the passability of the sidewalk that runs alongside the vehicles and complaints from patients that they feel unsafe and uncomfortable using the road to get to their appointments because of the camp’s existence.
According to the City, the “tipping point” came when the Olympia Fire Department issued a memo recommending that emergency service vehicles, like ambulances, use Lilly Rd instead of Ensign Rd to get to the hospital. This recommendation came after an incident where 2 pedestrians crossing the road were almost hit by a fire service vehicle. The City says they decided to move forward with the removal of the camp because of concerns about the potential ways the recommendation to reroute could impact the safety of people being transported to the hospital.
What are the responses of the residents to the reasons being given to justify the sweep?
All of the residents recognize that there is work that needs to be done to improve conditions at the camp, both for the residents and for the neighbors. That said, the residents believe that the reasons being given to justify their removal are misleading, largely because they imply that the majority of the residents are engaging in the behavior and actions that are causing the concerns. In reality, the majority of vehicles and RVs do not have objects on the sidewalk that impact passibility. The majority of residents treat the area and their neighbors with respect, have been cooperating and working with the City to improve conditions at the camp, and are doing everything they can to get out of the situation they are in. The residents feel that they should of had a place at the table during the meetings between the City, Providence, and concerned neighbors, not only so they could defend themselves against false accusations and have a say in the decisions that directly impact their lives, but also so that they could have a real opportunity to be a part of the solution and address the concerns.
How many people will be displaced if the City follows through with the sweep?
Between 30-35 people.
Are the residents demanding that they must be allowed to stay on Ensign Rd?
The simple answer is no. Many residents of the Ensign Road RV Community have chronic and severe medical health challenges and have chosen to park their vehicles along the road because of how close it is to hospital. Though being near emergency medical services has helped folks feel safer and more secure, the residents of the community recognize that there are issues with the location being a site for longer-term emergency shelter. Residents are organizing to fight this sweep not because they are being asked to leave this specific location, but because they are being forced to leave without being offered a safe, legal, and appropriate alternative.
All of the residents we have spoken to have said that they would willingly relocate if they were offered a safe and legal alternative location that is reasonably close to services, particularly medical services.
What are the asks of the Ensign Rd RV Community?
Click here to read the list of asks put forth by the Ensign Rd RV Community.
Have any legal alternative locations been offered to the community?
No legal alternative locations for people to move themselves and their vehicles to have been offered or designated. The City is saying that they are prepared to offer people some number of nights at a hotel or spots at the Mitigation Site. However, while a few nights in a hotel room is nice, it will not truly solve the problem the residents are facing. In a few days, they would be back at square one, with nowhere safe or legal to go to. Further, the Mitigation Site is not a suitable alternative for those living along Ensign Road. Going from living in a vehicle/RV to a tent would decrease, not increase, the quality of life, safety, health, and stability of the members of the Ensign Rd RV Community.
Where will people go if an alternative isn’t designated?
No one knows for sure. Most likely, people will remain in Olympia/the Thurston County region and will gravitate towards areas where smaller groups of vehicles/RVs have been able to reside for longer periods of time. It is also likely that people will move to streets that do not currently have RVs or vehicles camped alongside of them. While no one, including the residents, are certain about where people will go, we have no doubt that shortly after the displacement, we will see a drastic increase in vehicle/RV camping somewhere in our community.
How can I help?
- Contact the City of Olympia and ask that they stay the sweep until a safe, legal, and suitable alternative is designated for people to move to. Click here for the contact information of City of Olympia electeds and staff.
- Contact electeds and staff from other local jurisdictions to ask that they come to the table and offer whatever resources they can to help find an alternative location as soon as possible. Examples of other jurisdictions and people to contact are: The City of Lacey, the City of Tumwater, Thurston County, the Port of Olympia, State Representatives from our local legislative districts, and the State’s Department of Enterprise Services. Click here to find the contact information for elected officials and staff from all of these jurisdictions.
- If the sweep is not stayed, volunteer to support residents between 8:30am-4pm on October 27th. Witnesses, de-escalators, facilitators, people who can help people with packing and transporting belongings are always needed, as well as people who can drop off snacks, coffee, waters, and garbage bags throughout the day. If you’re interested in helping out in any of these ways, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Email us at email@example.com if you are interested in supporting or being involved in actions and advocacy to prevent the forced removal of the Ensign Rd RV Community.
- Donate funds to Just Housing Olympia via PayPal and paypal.me/justhousing. Funds collected over the next week will be used to support the Ensign Road RV Community. For example, funds will be used to help fix vehicles that currently can’t move, help people get legal documents to prove their ownership of their vehicles, and to cover legal fees that may come up through advocacy efforts. Also, while we hope that this situation does not end in a forced removal and impoundments, we want to be prepared to support people with covering towing costs to move their vehicles to temporarily safe locations and to help get their vehicles back if they are impounded on the 27th.
Why do we believe that other jurisdictions in Thurston County, in addition to the City of Oly, have a responsibility to be at the table to help figure out where people can go?
While the decision to stay the sweep lies solely with the City of Olympia, we believe that all jurisdictions within our region have some responsibility to be at the table, working to ensure that people are not displaced with nowhere to go when the 27th arrives.
The actions of more than one jurisdiction have contributed to the escalation of the situation along Ensign Road. For example, a number of the people currently residing along Ensign were originally displaced from the City of Lacey and/or the State’s Department of Enterprise properties. Other cities and the County have also displaced RVs from their own properties in recent months/years.
Even more importantly, we understand that a positive outcome is much more likely if our entire region is working together and pooling resources to guarantee that this vulnerable group of people do not find themselves with nowhere to go at the beginning of winter, in the middle of a continuing pandemic..
Where can I learn more about this situation?
Click here to view the letter written by the Ensign Road RV Community for the City of Olympia and Providence St. Peter’s, as well as their list of asks, and Draft Community Code of Conduct.
Click here for the most recent Olympian article about the sweep
Click here for blog posts from the Olympia Tribune about the sweep
Keep any eye on this post over the next week as will likely be adding more articles, videos, and resources to keep people up to date on the situation.