Everett to begin enforcing ‘no-sit, no-lie’ homeless camping ban

EVERETT, Wash. — Everett City Council approved a “no-sit, no-lie” homeless camping ordinance in mid-March, on the condition that a new pallet shelter space is available as an alternative. With those spaces now open, the city will begin to enforce the ordinance.

The measure effectively prohibits sitting or lying down of any kind on the area’s streets and sidewalks within a 10-block radius along Smith Avenue near the I-5 overpass, in a part of the city where tents and tarps have frequently amassed in recent months. It had passed 5-1 as part of a larger bill to use a $1 million grant from the state to set up a series of tiny homes capable of housing up to 30 people behind the Everett Gospel Mission.

Although the ordinance gives police the ability to sweep encampments in the area, the plan to start will be to educate people camped out in the area, and to clear access to sidewalks and businesses for pedestrians. By the end of the week, the city hopes to have 10 to 15 people moved into the new pallet shelters.

Supporters of the measure include neighborhood businesses, who have been vocal regarding concerns over increases in garbage and blocked walkways. Opponents argue that prohibiting camping effectively criminalizes homelessness.

Over the last six months, other cities across the Puget Sound region have also passed ordinances designed to limit homeless camping. That includes Auburn, which raised the penalty for camping in public from a $250 fine to a $1,000 fine and/or 90 days in jail, while carving out exceptions so that the penalties only apply in situations where overnight shelter space is already available.

On Mercer Island, councilmembers voted 6-1 in February to ban camping on public property entirely.

Meanwhile, Seattle continues to grapple with its own homeless crisis, albeit with promising recent progress in the form of a new program that helped voluntarily move 33 people camped along Third Avenue into available shelter spaces last month.