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Vancouver, WA homeless deaths continue amid emergency declaration

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(The Center Square) – Vancouver, Washington is on track to beat its 2023 record of 45 deaths within its homelessness population, as eight homeless people have died in the city since December.

The city is implementing a number of efforts to curb homeless deaths within the city, including boosting staff levels for the Vancouver Homelessness Assistance and Resources Team.

City officials are also continuing work to identify a location for a bridge shelter this year. According to a news release, the shelter would provide up to 150 people experiencing homelessness with a place to stay and supportive services to “bridge” the space between living outside and the next step on their journey to permanent housing.

“With one person dying roughly every eight days on the streets of Vancouver, the critical nature of this work cannot be emphasized enough,” Policy and Program Manager Aaron Lande said in an update on the situation to the Vancouver City Council on Feb. 26.

At the time of the last Point-In-Time count conducted in January 2023, there were 1,300 homeless people in Clark County, with 672 being counted as unsheltered. The results also showed a 54% increase in chronic homelessness and a 78% increase in chronic unsheltered homelessness since 2022.

Last November, the city council voted to approve an emergency declaration that is still in effect. The declaration gives City Manager Eric Holmes authority to unilaterally issue executive orders on homelessness.

According to Vancouver, the emergency declaration is a result of the city surpassing the state averages for homelessness, despite efforts to increase the available supply of affordable housing, among other initiatives to address homelessness.

As recently as Feb. 13, Vancouver closed two publicly-owned real property sites to homeless camping.

The Center Square previously reported that 45 homeless people died within Vancouver city limits in 2023. That represents 7.5% to 9% of homeless people in the city, based on the Vancouver Homeless Assistance and Resources Team’s rough estimate of between 500 to 600 homeless people within city limits.