Tacoma bans camping near shelters to contain homelessness

Oct 12, 2022, 11:10 AM | Updated: 12:15 pm


(KIRO 7)

(KIRO 7)

Tacoma has passed a new camping ordinance in an effort to contain homelessness.

The city council voted 6-3 Tuesday night after hours of discussion.

Tacoma aims to ban camping, storing belongings near temporary shelters

The ordinance was introduced by District 1 Councilmember John Hines, who is cited for drafting this measure in response to a sharp uptick in public health and safety concerns received from community members regarding areas near Tacoma shelters.

“No one is happy with the status quo,” said Councilmember Hines. “This proposed ordinance is meant to serve as a starting point for broader conversations on some of our biggest challenges. I think we can all agree that everyone in our community deserves to have a healthy and safe place to live – including those currently in encampments, in temporary shelters, and in the neighborhoods that surround them.”

Hines said the 10-block distance was determined by crime data. Property crime occurs at a 55.96 rate per 1,000 residents, more than double the state’s rate (27.28), according to Neighborhood Scout crime reports.

Tacoma is in the midst of creating a temporary shelter — at 35th Street and Pacific Avenue — city crews cleared multiple homeless encampments last month. Several RVs and vehicles remained alongside piles of trash and debris after their work began.

Another shelter, constructed on Pacific Avenue near S. Division Lane, is currently disrupting community members and residents who, according to the Tacoma News Tribune, claim it has been the source of crime and safety issues while believing the city has not doing enough to address the existing encampment.

“I’m not voting for this so we can criminalize homelessness. I’m voting for this so we can get people to accept the services that we offer,” Tacoma Mayor Victoria Woodards told KIRO 7 News. “This is an incredibly difficult situation, a very incredible difficult decision for me.”

The ordinance will begin Nov. 14. The goal is to prevent people from storing personal belongings and setting up an unsanctioned shelter within 10 blocks of a temporary homeless shelter.

The vote brought an avalanche of criticism on social media, most of it focused on the concept of “criminalizing homelessness.”

Camping bans don’t work,” one person tweeted. “Criminalizing the unhoused is immoral, period.” 

Violating the ordinance would be a misdemeanor.

It’s not clear at this time how the city will enforce the ordinance.

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