Ordinance pitch could set precedent for sleeping on public property

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Under a new ordinance addressing the homeless crisis, Seattle would not be able to remove homeless camps until after a 30-day notice and it must provide housing.

Fast facts: 

  • Supporters say the ordinance helps people stay in one place longer.
  • Opponents say it will lead to tent cities in parks or on school property. 
  • High-ranking officials are concerned. 
  • Around 3,000 still sleeping outside every night, advocates say.

The ACLU and the Coalition on Homelessness, among others, created the ordinance, arguing that the city’s policies for homeless issues and clearing out encampments are harmful and make things worse.

The ordnance is expected to be introduced at city hall Tuesday afternoon. 

Supporters behind the ordinance say it “strikes a balance between the rights and needs of people sleeping outdoors and legitimate public health and safety concerns.”
 
If such an ordinance was approved, it could set a precedent that would make sleeping in public places even easier, former Attorney General Rob McKenna told KIRO Radio’s Seattle’s Morning News.

“Under the proposed rule, the police … could not evict the RV owner from living in front of your house without following all of these procedures, including providing alternative housing," McKenna said.

In a letter to council members, six high-ranking city officials including Police Chief Kathleen O'Toole said they are deeply concerned this plan would open green space to more unauthorized camping.

The controversy comes on the heels of the tearing down of “Tent City 6” outside of the King County Administrative Building on Labor Day.

It's been nearly 10 months since Mayor Ed Murray declared a state of emergency regarding homelessness in Seattle. Advocates say there are still an estimated 3,000 people sleeping outside every night.

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