TACOMA, Wash. — In an effort to create a “buffer zone” around nearly a dozen city shelters, the Tacoma City Council passed a new camping ordinance in a 6-3 vote on Tuesday night.
The vote came after about four hours of discussion, public comment and amendments. However, some people were not pleased with the outcome.
The ordinance’s aim is to prevent people from storing personal belongings and setting up an unsanctioned shelter within 10 blocks of a temporary homeless shelter.
Council Member John Hines proposed the ordinance in September, believing it was a good idea for two reasons. First, “unsanctioned encampments have a negative impact on neighborhoods and can decrease a neighborhood’s willingness to host a shelter.” Secondly, “encampments that are too close to temporary shelters threaten the City’s ability to support shelters effectively.”
According to Hines, the 10-block distance was determined by crime data.
During Tuesday’s meeting, Mayor Victoria Woodards said voting for the ordinance was a wrenching decision but one she felt was a necessary move for the city.
“This is an incredibly difficult situation, a very incredible difficult decision for me,” Woodards said in part. “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. And this may or may not do that but what I do know is what we’ve been doing hasn’t been able to do that. It’s a really tough decision. Those of you who know me, know how hard this is. Government doesn’t always get it right. Nor can we profess to be perfect but there are moments that we have to try something different.”
Violating the ordinance would be a misdemeanor.
The ordinance was initially set to go into effect at the end of October but it will now begin Nov. 14.
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