Tacoma, WA. – Tacoma’s no-camping ordinance went into effect November 14. The city council approved the measure six to three and since then the decision has drawn some backlash from community members.
As part of the enforcement of the ban, the city of KIRO 7 submitted this statement:
“The City recognizes the complexity and impact that homelessness and camps have on communities. For this reason, our response to homelessness and decamping includes investment in community resources, including shelter and food banks, outreach services, mental health services, and affordable housing, as well as decamping and site consolidation and reclamation. In 2023-2024, the city will invest over $100 million in homeless services and affordable housing. This investment is about removing housing barriers, expanding shelters and stabilizing families, and addressing the health and safety concerns for people living in and around camps. We also have programs to support property owners affected by camp activities and the debris and trash that has accumulated. Site hardening and reclamation tactics are just part of what the city is doing to reduce storage management and clean-up costs. Ultimately, the city is focused on providing shelters for everyone in our community. Site hardening can include fencing, landscaping, and art installations. Recently, the City, in cooperation with adjacent property owners, placed site hardening boulders along some portions of Yakima; Where possible, the city also plants trees to improve our overall canopy.”
Site hardening, including landscaping and art installations, has seen graffiti applied to some of the boulders that the city has erected in place of camps. The names of council members who voted in favor of the ordinance were spray-painted on boulders on Yakima Avenue. Councilor John Hines, who proposed the original regulation, says the names have been known for at least a few days.
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“We made it clear that homeless people are not them. They are not criminals. You are not a threat. But with all camps, large camps, there are health and safety issues that affect not only the people who live there, but also those around them,” Hines said.
Hines tells KIRO 7 that he believes the ordinance has already had a positive impact, clearing camps in some areas and moving those in need to temporary shelters.
“And that is no longer there and a lot of these people have moved off the streets into shelters. That’s been the goal of the Camping Ordinance from the start, which is that we want to provide shelter and we want to get people into that shelter and not live on the streets,” Hines said.
According to the Tacoma Rescue Mission, the damage control site on Pacific Avenue is full and the shelter only opened in the past few weeks.
“But it’s a model that can say, ‘Hey, we want low-barrier access to get people somewhere safe where we can start providing some services that hopefully can help create a loop to escape homelessness,'” said Myron Bernard of the Tacoma Rescue Mission.
However, some believe the camping ban caused some other problems in the process.
“It creates some barriers of distrust. It makes it a little harder for us to find, engage and provide services, and also pushes them out of the beam a bit,” Bernard said.
But many with the city and the Tacoma Rescue Mission believe the conversation to address the homeless crisis is far from over.
“So it’s important to come up with new ideas and find different models to tackle a complicated problem,” Bernard said.
According to Hines, this is only the first step in addressing the problem at hand. He believes that further regulations and other laws will be part of their future discussions.