Homeless population increases in Wapato

Homeless Population Increase in Wapato

WAPATO, Wash.- In late April of 2016 the Yakima Nation Housing Authority implemented a mandatory urine analysis for the people living in their housing complex due to the high drug problem.

"If anybody tested positive for drugs or alcohol they were evicted," the Mayor of Wapato Tony Guzman said.

The people that were evicted ended up homeless which caused the recent increase in the homeless population and crime.

"There roughly might be 200 to 250 people living out there and also behind Lincoln Avenue," said Guzman.

During that same time the Retro Session took effect, which made it so that Wapato Police couldn't arrest and detain a person that was Native American, only Tribal Police could.

"Because of Retro Session it really ties their hands," said Guzman.

Wapato Police Chief David Simmons says that it has been difficult reducing the crime rate due to the new law.

"It's extremely frustrating for our staff, I do want to indicate and mention that the Tribal Police Department has had that same frustration for years," said Simmons.

Tribal Police aren't allowed to arrest non-tribal members in most circumstances, therefore it has been a two-way problem for both departments.

"We are all trying to learn how to live together and try to make this work the best we can for our community," said Simmons.

Solutions to help with the homeless problem have been discussed, but so far they are still in the progress of coming up with an answer.

The Wapato City Council holds city hall meetings on the first and third of every month and it's open to the community if they have anything they want to bring up to the city council.

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