Lacey City Council approved a ban on unsanctioned public camping Thursday, targeted at the city’s growing issues with homeless encampments.
The ordinance effectively bans tents, as well as the storage of “personal property” in any park, street, or public lot. Violators could be found guilty of a misdemeanor, fines up to $1,000, and jail time up to 90 days.
The measure also makes certain allowances. If it’s clear that someone violating the new ban is homeless, a police officer will then be tasked with figuring out if shelter space is available to house them instead. If shelters are all full, no punishments are issued.
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This comes two years after a similar measure failed to pass Lacey City Council after “dozens” of people voiced criticism. This time around, things went more smoothly, with the ban getting unanimous approval from Lacey’s council.
Law enforcement expressed support for the measure, noting that it gives officers the tools they need to legally engage with homeless campers. Opponents argued that it essentially made homelessness a crime.
The city won’t begin enforcement until it develops more of a structured plan concerning where exactly to send homeless campers in violation of the measure. Officials described the ban as a “first step,” with more planning on the way for its implementation.
Seattle’s dealt with its own issues regarding homeless camps, empowering its Navigation Team to help clear problematic encampments throughout the city. The city’s Nav Team recently expanded to 38 total members, as it ramps up its homeless outreach efforts. No such team currently exists in Lacey.
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