Tacoma, WA. – Tacoma’s camping ban ordinance has been in effect since Nov. 14. The city council approved the measure six to three and ever since, the decision has gotten some backlash from community members.
As part of their enforcement of the ban, the city sent KIRO 7 this statement:
“The City recognizes the complexity and impact that homelessness and encampments have on communities. Which is why, our response to homelessness and encampment removals includes investment in community resources including sheltering and food banks, outreach, mental health services and affordable housing development as well as encampment removal and site hardening and reclamation. In 2023-2024, the City is investing over $100 million in homeless services and affordable housing. This investment is about addressing barriers to housing, expanding shelter opportunities and stabilizing families, and about addressing the health and safety concerns for people who live in and around encampments. We also have programs to assist property owners who are impacted by encampment activity and the debris and garbage that is accumulated. Site hardening and reclamation tactics are just one part of what the City is doing to reduce the cost of encampment management and cleanup; ultimately, the City is focused on providing shelter options for all individuals in our community. Site hardening can include fencing, landscaping, and art installations. Recently, the City placed boulders along some portions of Yakima for site hardening in cooperation with the adjacent property owners; where possible, the City is also planting trees to enhance our overall tree canopy.”
With site hardening including landscaping and art installations, some of the boulders put in place of encampments by the city have been graffitied. Council members names who voted in favor of the ordinance have been spray painted on boulders of Yakima Avenue. Councilmember John Hines, who proposed the original ordinance, says the names have been up for at least a few days now.
“We made it clear that homeless people, it’s not them. They are not criminals. They are not a threat. But any encampments, large encampments, there are health and safety issues that not only impact the people living there, but the people around it,” Hines said.
Hines tells KIRO 7 he believes the ordinance has already made a positive impact by clearing out encampments in some areas and moving those in need into shelters.
“And that’s no longer there and a lot of those people have moved off the streets and into shelters. Which was the goal of the camping ordinance from the beginning, which is we are providing shelter and we want to move people into that shelter and not live on the streets,” Hines said.
According to Tacoma Rescue Mission, the mitigation site off of Pacific Avenue is full and the shelter just opened in recent weeks.
“But it’s a model that can say ‘hey, we want a low barrier entry to get people into a safe spot where we can begin providing some services that can hopefully help escape a cycle of homelessness,’” Myron Bernard with Tacoma Rescue Mission said.
But some believe the camping ban has created some other issues in the process.
“It creates some barriers of distrust. It makes it a little more difficult for us to find, engage, offer services and forces them a little bit off the beam path as well,” Bernard said.
But many with the city and Tacoma Rescue Mission believe the conversation in addressing the homeless crisis is far from over.
“So, finding novel ideas and finding different models to approach a complicated problem, that’s important,” Bernard said.
Hines says this is just the first step in addressing the issue at hand. He believes more ordinances and other legislation will be a part of their future discussions.
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