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Tacoma City Council Changes Laws Concerning Homelessness

Homeless Old Man

Camping is one of America’s favorite past-times, with some 40 million people going on a total of 515 million camping trips in 2010 alone. However, sometimes camping is not an activity that one chooses voluntarily as many homeless individuals in Tacoma City, Washington demonstrated.

Many homeless individuals engage in car camping — if they have an automobile for shelter– but gas is a luxury in those instances. That’s why they often leave their cars parked at one location for some time, something that Tacoma City officials decided to combat recently with a new law that limits the allowed time a car can be parked.

The law amends the city’s rule on car camping, shortening the time that people can leave their cars in one spot from seven days, to just 72 hours. It also requires them to move a mile away after that time to reduce the impact on affected neighborhoods.

Councilman Robert Thoms said that the laws should “help give the city enforcement tools, should help reduce the nuisance of homelessness for residents and business owners in certain areas, and would help the city redirect homeless people to its planned emergency sheltering sites.”

The laws also come with fines that increase in severity as offenses stack, starting at $50, then moving to $100, and finally $250.

The city council also passed a ban on camping on property within the city itself, removing encampments unless in locations that specifically allow it. Anyone caught violating that law would be charged with a misdemeanor.

Keith Echterling supports the new laws and states that it fills gaps that had previously existed in the laws of the city of Tacoma.

“Currently, the Tacoma Municipal Code lacks an immediately identifiable precise prohibition against camping activities on public property here in the city of Tacoma. This ordinance proposes to remedy that gap.”

The law is set to expire when the current emergency homelessness declaration expires on October 9 of this year.