Where should people be allowed to camp in Seattle?

Sep 30, 2016, 5:54 AM | Updated: 11:08 pm

Seattle homeless crisis...

The Seattle City Council is considering where people should be allowed to camp on public land in the city. (MyNorthwest)


Where should people be allowed to camp in Seattle? The city council is asking that question as it considers a bill handed to them by the ACLU.

The bill was sponsored by Council Member Mike O’Brien and accepted for consideration by the council. Only a few voices have opposed the bill and oppose allowing people to camp in Seattle.

Council Member Tim Burgess gets applause after opposing homeless camping bill

The city council’s most recent revision of the Council Bill 118794 makes distinctions and definitions of “suitable” and “unsuitable” locations. It further defines “specific public use.” Despite the headache of navigating legal jargon, that point is an important definition. Critics of the bill have argued that the bill will allow homeless campers to pitch tents on sidewalks, schools and in parks. Under the “specific public use” definition, schools, park uses, and recreational areas are included. An “unsuitable location” is a location with such a “specific public use.”

It’s a hypothetical that became reality recently as homeless campers have started to set up tents on playfields in Interbay. Coaches make a habit of combing the field for syringes and report that they have had to drag unconscious people off of the field before they use it. The kids now just play around the tents.

The remainder of the bill maintains other aspects of the original: that the city will have to pay campers if it violates the legislation, and an 11 member committee will be formed to manage the process. That process seems to have had further assistance from the ACLU and Columbia Legal Services.

ACLU helps council decide where to camp in Seattle

The ACLU and Columbia Legal Services has already considered many of these issues the council faces. They not only wrote the bill for the city council to consider, they wrote a guide to further modify it. A simplified sheet summarizing what locations are suitable, unsuitable, and hazardous for people to camp in Seattle was provided to the council as they put the legislation through its committees.

It was referenced during council committee meetings, and also provides what procedures the city should follow for where to allow people to camp in Seattle:

Unsafe locations: Landslide-prone green space, shoulder of the road, areas where heavy machinery operate, etc.

• City provides 48-hour notice and identifies why location is specifically safe; City identifies alternative site; City removes people and belongings, following protocols.

Unsuitable locations: School grounds, sidewalks, certain areas of parks when in use, sites for neighborhood use.

• City provides 48-hour notice explaining why location is unsuitable; City identifies alternative site; City removes people and belongings, following protocols.

Hazardous conditions: Garbage build-up, needles, human waste, flammable or explosive materials.

• City provides notice and opportunity to remedy; If condition not remedied within 72 hours, city provides 48-hour notice of removal; City removes people and belongings, following protocols.

Safe & Suitable Locations Without Hazardous Conditions: Certain green spaces, under roadways and bridges and where not blocking sidewalks and not endangered by or impeding traffic.

• City posts notice and provides 30 days of outreach to identify needs of persons in the location; City makes offer of adequate accessible housing available at the time of removal and which meets the needs of the person to whom offer is made, including personal history, mental health, family status, and other individual considerations; City removes people and belongings, following protocols for those who refuse offers.

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Where should people be allowed to camp in Seattle?