WA: A claw and a bat. People arm themselves as tensions rise over homeless RVs at the Capitol

[spokanepublicradio.org – 11/21/19]

In the shadow of Washington’s Capitol dome is a broad boulevard — called Deschutes Parkway — with a popular walking and running path that curves along Capitol Lake and links the city of Olympia to the neighboring city of Tumwater.

The parkway, the adjacent lake and nearby Marathon Park are technically part of Washington’s expansive Capitol campus complex.

It’s along this picturesque stretch of road, where parking is not restricted, that in recent months motorhomes, trailers and campers in various states of disrepair have begun to take up residence.The state of Washington now finds itself grappling with an issue that’s been front and center in Seattle, Portland and many other cities — people who are homeless living in dilapidated recreational vehicles parked on public streets.

The situation at the Capitol has prompted recent acts of vandalism to some of the vehicles and citizen complaints to the Department of Enterprise Services (DES), which oversees the Capitol grounds. DES is now considering adopting parking restrictions along the boulevard.

Previously from Minnesota, Goddard said he’s a veteran, a convicted felon and a Level I, meaning low-risk to reoffend, sex offender.

“If you’ve got a felony in this state then you can’t get housing,” Goddard said.

Goddard said he moved his RV to Deschutes Parkway about a month-and-a-half ago after the nearby city of Lacey adopted tough, new limits on RV camping. Since then, word has gotten out within the homeless community that this stretch of lakefront road is one of the few places left in Thurston County without overnight parking restrictions.

For people who like to walk and run along Deschutes Parkway, the arrival of the rundown motorhomes and trailers is a topic of conversation and, in some cases, concern.

“There’s more today than there has been even the last few weeks,” said a runner named Julia who wouldn’t give her last name.

Julia called the situation “sad,” but also said she’s worried about her safety. She opened the palm of her hand to reveal that she was carrying a runner’s claw — a self-defense tool designed like a cat’s claw.

“I have not personally had any problems, but just reading the stories of what’s been happening the past couple of weeks is concerning,” Julia said.

On November 2, a 45-year-old homeless man named Jason Moline was found murdered along Deschutes Parkway. The state patrol is investigating, but so far there’ve been no arrests in the case.

That murder has people who are living in the RVs, like Austin Hall, on edge. Hall, who is also a Level I sex offender, said Moline was a friend of his.

“I have a Louisville slugger just in case anybody tries breaking in,” said Hall, holding up a baseball bat with a handle wrapped in bandanas for better grip.

Hall said he’s concerned about his safety and the safety of his pregnant fiancé.

Adding to the tension is the fact that in recent days there have been “a small number of troubling cases of nighttime vandalism to cars,” according to Loftis, the state patrol spokesperson. In addition, some passing drivers have been harassing the campers by honking their horns.

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The state and the public created their own problems from day one when they started passing these restrictive laws. How appropriate that some of these emerging problems involve sh!t spilling over their beautiful landscape.

Smell a clue Washington?