Emergency Declaration

On Nov. 3, City Manager Eric Holmes declared an emergency related to homelessness in Vancouver and the Vancouver City Council to ratify the emergency declaration on Nov. 6.

An emergency declaration is a tool that enables the City to bypass unnecessary procedural delays to swiftly address situations that may cause injury, death, or property damage. In some instances, emergency declarations also provide options to recover money spent on critical or emergency issues to protect the public peace, safety and welfare. It is only in the most critical of situations. Learn more about the emergency declaration at our Frequently Asked Questions.

Emergency Orders

Notice of Property Closure

In accordance with emergency order 2023-03, the City Manager may authorize the closure of up to 48 acres of public property and public rights-of-way to address and mitigate the adverse impacts of homelessness. The following parcels are closed to camping and outdoor habitation at all hours and all days.

February 13, 2024

December 11, 2023

Situation Reports

Homelessness Emergency Action Plan


Frequently Asked Questions

Overview

Even with the considerable progress made to address homelessness in Vancouver, the need and the complexities related to the issue continue to grow. In accordance with Vancouver Municipal Code 2.12.030, the City Manager has declared an emergency related to homelessness in Vancouver and asked the Vancouver City Council to ratify the emergency declaration on Nov. 6.

What is an emergency declaration?

Vancouver Municipal Code, Section 2.12.030 provides that whenever a civil emergency, or the imminent threat thereof, occurs in the City and results in, or threatens to result in, the death or injury of persons or the destruction of or damage to property to such extent as to require, in the judgment of the City Manager or designate, extraordinary and immediate measures, an emergency may be declared to protect the public peace, safety, and welfare.  

Why was an emergency declared?

While the City and other partners have worked to address the issue of homelessness over the last several years, the complexity and magnitude of issues related to homelessness continue to grow. The City needs more flexibility to create additional solutions that can be implemented at a faster pace to save lives and address this public health and humanitarian crisis. Moreover, through a variety of inputs the community has been clear that addressing homelessness and related issues is one of their top priorities.

How does an emergency declaration address the issue?

An emergency declaration will enable the City Manager to issue emergency orders that will provide the agility needed address the evolving issue of homelessness. For example, the first emergency order gives the City Manager the authority to take actions related to budget authority, streamlining processes related to accepting donations, contracting, and procuring needed goods and services that accelerate the implementation of solutions to address the crisis.

What immediate actions will the City take after issuing the declaration?

Shortly after declaring the state of emergency, the City Manager signed initial two emergency orders. The first order provides increased financial agility – authorizing a streamlined process for accepting donations, accessing financial reserves for budgeting needs, and buying goods and services needed to address homelessness. The second order allows the City Manager to open or close specific parcels of public land up to 48 acres as needed to address this humanitarian crisis while ensuring public health and sanitation needs are being addressed. It also requires compliance with the City’s tent and vehicle camping expectations. Additional emergency orders are anticipated.

What areas are included in the emergency declaration?

While the issue is regional, the emergency declaration will only be effective within Vancouver’s city limits. The City will continue to work with its regional partners on solutions.

When will the emergency declaration be over?

The emergency will be over once the City Manager presents Council with a resolution voting to rescind the declaration.

Homelessness in Vancouver

What has the City done to address the issue?

Over the years, the City has made significant progress in addressing homelessness and related issues. This includes empaneling an Affordable Housing Task Force, proposing Propositions 1 and 3 to the voters of Vancouver (which established and expanded the Affordable Housing Fund), creating the Homeless Assistance Resource Team, modifying the City Code to protect environmentally sensitive areas and fire impact areas while developing two Safe Stay Communities with two more opening before the end of the year, a Safe Park, and funding other supportive housing programs.

How does the City know how many homeless individuals there are in Vancouver?

The State of Washington requires each county to conduct a census of individuals experiencing homelessness, this is called the Point in Time Count. The PIT is administered by the Council for the Homeless and provides a countywide count of individuals living unsheltered, those living in shelter, and transitional housing programs. The PIT Count is conducted one time a year.

How many people were counted in the last PIT count?

The last PIT count was conducted in January. At the time of the count, there were 1,300 homeless individuals in Clark County and 672 of them were unsheltered. The results of the PIT Count also showed a 54% increase in chronic homelessness and 78% increase in chronic unsheltered homelessness since 2022.

What is the difference between chronic and unsheltered homelessness?

The category of chronic homelessness includes those individuals who are in some form of shelter such as a Safe Stay Community or Safe Park. Unsheltered individuals are those who are not accessing shelter and who are sleeping in places not intended for habitation.

Why can’t you make camping within the City limits illegal?

Federal court decisions (Martin v. Boise and Johnson v. Grants Pass) prevent cities in the Ninth Judicial Circuit from penalizing camping or outdoor habitation in all places, at all times, unless an adequate supply of temporary housing is reasonably available to people who lack the financial means to pay for housing.

What is the City’s approach to clearing encampments?

Camp removal and displacement of people is assessed on a case-by-case basis depending on impacts to the environment, public safety and user conflicts. Considerations include public safety, including for the people who inhabit the camps, potential for significant environmental impacts, potential user conflicts, and available resources. Clean up notices are posted at least 24-hours in advance, and several entities are often involved, such as HART, community outreach teams, Public Works, Talkin’ Trash, and sometimes code enforcement, police, fire and crisis response, if needed. When the City removes an encampment on public property, a minimum 72-hour notice is provided. We look for the safest options for cleaning the camp, often hiring a contracted company that uses best practices, safe collection and trauma-informed care. Personal items, documents, money and jewelry are not thrown away but collected and inventoried. Service providers and other community resources are notified in advance to be on hand for support and outreach ahead of time.

Where can I report an issue related to homelessness?

Use the MyVancouver mobile app or City website to report issues to the HART team or ask questions related to homelessness in Vancouver, including non-emergency issues, such as behavioral health concerns, unwanted occupation of property, etc. Illegal camping or issues associated with active or abandoned camps. For urgent issues requiring a police officer, please call 9-1-1.