Tacoma officials report progress made since city’s ‘camping ban’

TACOMA, Wash. — Tacoma city officials say they are getting more people into shelters after passing a ban on camping near temporary homeless shelters.

The ordinance’s aim is to prevent people from storing personal belongings and setting up an unsanctioned shelter within 10 blocks of a temporary homeless shelter.

It has been in effect since Nov. 14, 2022.

Since then, the city’s Homeless Engagement Alternatives Liaison — or HEAL Team — has had a 100% voluntary camp clearance rate, according to the city council.

The team has made contact with nearly 650 people. Of those, 71 were placed in shelters.

So far, no one has been cited for violating the new buffer.

“We heard often in the public comment and when we were having conversations that this would lead to criminal prosecution for being unhoused, and so far, that has not happened at all,” Tacoma City Councilmember John Hines said Tuesday.

The city plans to open a new shelter and a safe parking lot within the next month. The two options will hold 70 people.

The city’s homelessness strategy can be found at this link.

The progress report comes as Tacoma Mayor Victoria Woodards is set to deliver her state of the city address on Thursday.

Along with the city’s approach to homelessness, Woodards is expected to talk about affordable housing, the city’s ongoing recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and community safety.

Public safety has been a major ongoing concern for residents. Last year, Tacoma had the highest number of homicides ever recorded for the city.

Woodards is set to make her address at Mount Tahoma High School on Thursday at 5:30 p.m.