Tacoma homeless encampment ban goes into effect Monday

A controversial new ordinance designed to get more homeless people into shelters in Tacoma goes into effect Monday.

Those who break the new law face fines and jail time.

No one will be forced out of an encampment Monday. Two-week notices will go out to encampments that are near a homeless shelter.

City leaders said they are trying this approach to get more people off the streets and into housing.

It is not news to anyone in this encampment that the city of Tacoma wants them out.

“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” a man said from inside a tent. “I’m actually ready to do it right now, just to be ahead of them. You know what I mean?”

He won’t have to move just yet.

But the city’s ban on camping within a 10-block radius of a homeless shelter does go into effect Monday.

“It’s inhumane to just let people live on the streets in encampments,” John Hines said. “And let’s try to find ways to get them into shelters as fast as we can.”

Hines, a Tacoma native and city council member since 2019, said he drafted the ordinance to address the issue of homelessness and encampments.

“I think the idea is we’re looking, really focused on the options,” Hines said. “What’s available? So driving them to something that they want. Asking people on the streets, what kind of shelters do you want? What kind of sites are you looking for?”

The Tacoma City Council’s decision to implement a camping ban proved contentious. The ordinance passed during a heated debate last month. Within a day, homeless advocates were vowing to sue the city.

But Hines said he believes they are on firm legal ground.

“I think what we’re doing is perfectly within the laws,” he said.

“And I’ve worked with our city attorney’s office to try to understand what we’re trying to do here.”

But the city’s attempt won’t help those who are homeless get back on their feet, a man in an encampment said.

“They make it seem like, you know, the shelter is ... everything (is) going to be all right,” he said, “but it’s not.”

He said they also need jobs, something the new ordinance will not address.

Anyone caught violating the law could be fined $250 and jailed for 30 days.

Hines said the city’s nine shelters can’t accommodate everyone, so some people will almost certainly remain on the street.

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