Edmonds City Council debate on proposed camping ban ends with no vote

EDMONDS, Wash. — Criminalizing camping in Edmonds was at the center of another city council meeting Thursday night but there was no vote.

The Edmonds City Council considered a new ordinance that would make it illegal to camp on public property, but only if shelter space is available and rejected by the camper.

The ordinance has been up in the air since last week. It’s a debate with two clear sides. Supporters say the ordinance is about public safety, while those who oppose it say the law would criminalize homelessness.

Supporters say any charges or arrests as a result of the ordinance would be a last resort. They also say no one will be arrested or fined if shelter space is not available.

If shelter space is available, but refused by a camper, violating the ordinance is a misdemeanor and punishable with a fine of up to $1,000 or 90 days in jail.

There is also a provision that states that anyone who is unable to pay the fee would have to complete some form of community service work.

“The ordinance will not be enforced against homeless individuals when no available shelter is in place for that particular person. Homeless individuals will not be arrested for sleeping outside,” Edmonds City Attorney Patricia Taraday said at Tuesday night’s city council meeting.

“I wouldn’t want to mislead anyone to believe that by passing this ordinance we would somehow be able to immediately put people into shelter,” said Edmonds Human Services Deputy Director Shannon Burley.

Tuesday night’s city council meeting ended with the conclusion that more discussion was needed.

Thursday night’s meeting ended with time running out before a final vote was cast.