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Rantz: Seattle Council may legalize homeless RV camping

Homeless RVs line a street in Ballard. (Dyer Oxley, MyNorthwest)

Seattle City Councilmember Mike O’Brien, who once floated the idea of letting the homeless take over city parks, is readying an ordinance that would essentially legalize homeless RV camping throughout the city.

Seattle City Attorney candidate Scott Lindsay posted what he says is a copy of the proposed ordinance and, if it’s what gets introduced, it’s alarming.

RELATED: Where do Seattle’s roadside RVs dump their waste?

“The bill would exempt vehicles used as residences from almost all vehicle safety laws and parking restrictions,” Lindsay warns. “Shockingly, the bill would also exempt from impoundment residential vehicles that are used in the commission of a crime of sexual exploitation – a critical law enforcement tool used to deter pimps and johns from taking advantage of the most vulnerable.”

I first heard rumors of this legislation last week. Thanks to Lindsay, we get a head start on debating this dangerous idea.

Making it easier to camp on the street doesn’t actually help the homeless; it makes the situation worse. There are pathways to getting housed; programs are in place to help this vulnerable community. Allowing them to stay in their RVs without any consequences keeps them on the streets longer than they otherwise would.

Beyond that, it’s dangerous for our neighborhoods and the homeless themselves. We know many of these RVs have been used to illegally sell drugs. Perhaps O’Brien is OK with that possibility in his neighborhood, but most of us aren’t. In fact, perhaps O’Brien can offer up his private property for unvetted RV users to set up a camp.

Further, it’s not safe for those living in the RVs, which, in many instances, are broken down and don’t have the ability to handle everything from human waste to basic heating. It’s not compassionate to have the homeless live in broken down RVs.

Lindsay says the plan is for the bill to be considered on August 15, with an eye towards being voted out of committee and onto the full council by September 8. This is a bad idea and it should be stopped before it gets too much traction in a council that has shown a willingness to punt any serious attempt at dealing with the homeless emergency.

As of this printing, Councilmember O’Brien has not returned an email seeking comment.

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