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Nearby businesses concerned with new homeless camp next to Yakima waste treatment facility

YAKIMA, Wash. -- The site chosen for the new temporary homeless camp is next to Yakima's waste treatment facility, but funding has to be secured in the next couple of weeks.

City councilmembers voted in favor of the site after rejecting another one on Fruitvale Boulevard. However, local shop owners said this new camp will jeopardize business and worsen existing problems.

“We have seen people camp behind the old K-Mart building in tents and rundown RVs,” said Andrew Mortimer, a mechanic at RWC Group next to K-Mart.

Now the grassy property behind the building could be home to the homeless - a move that has neighboring businesses worried about more theft and break-ins.

“We'll get our fences cut and products stolen from inside our fence as well as just the increase in the amount of trash along the highway here,” said Mortimer.

Even more garbage in the parking lot behind K-Mart, which already has a mattress, tires, several bottles, and more.

Though the homeless camp would have tents, security, and staff all managed by the religious group Transform Yakima Together, councilmember Carmen Mendez said it's essentially treating the homeless like human waste.

“A lot of people do look at the homeless population as human waste,” said Mendez. “To have the camp and waste water treatment right next to each other, I just could not believe that as a council that's a decision that we wanted to make.”

But city leaders said it's the best option.

“I would say it's a place where city workers are every day and we take great pride in making sure that it's a safe and clean environment,” said Yakima City Manager Cliff Moore.

City leaders said a behavioral agreement will be drafted with rules and regulations for the homeless. Still, businesses fear the ongoing issues will escalate and drive away new companies from coming to the area.

“This is our livelihood, and if we get broke into and things get stolen from us that means we can't work and our customers get products stolen and damaged,” said Mortimer.

More damage a temporary solution may bring.

Transform Yakima Together is seeking $100,000 in funding from the Yakima County Conference of Governments (YVCOG).

City leaders said the camp would open for three or four months after winter shelters close March 22. They also said there are several business offers being considered for the K-Mart building.

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