South Sound News

Tacoma’s People’s Park reopens after ‘thorough’ cleaning of homeless encampment

TACOMA, Wash. — It took more than a cleanup to get People's Park in Tacoma open again. The park had to be scoured in some areas, with grass and soil scraped away and removed.

The homeless encampment that lingered at the park for more than three months left the ground compacted and filthy. Crews had to deal with biohazards like human waste and used hypodermic needles left behind when the park was cleared in early January.

“We found a number of those items, and that’s why we cleaned the park so thoroughly,” said Marina Becker, with MetroParks Tacoma.

Walled tents were banned in Tacoma’s parks in October 2019 after numerous complaints about illegal activity and tents taking up space.

People’s Park became a symbol for Tacoma's homelessness crisis. Tents and makeshift structures filled the park, along with dozens of people who were allowed to stay for months. Becker said the city waited for nearly two dozen microshelters a block away and other options to open up before clearing the encampment.

“We worked really hard with the city and other agencies, metropolitan development county and others, to create more shelter space.”

But Tom Moore, who was walking through the newly reopened People’s Park on Thursday, said clearing out the homeless people like him left them with few choices.

“I mean, there’s no place to go,” said Moore, who had camped in the park, saying he lost all his possessions to the cleanup. “I’m mostly in a wheelchair. I push myself around town all night. I mean, that’s all you can do.”

Becker said the cost of the cleanup was shared by the city and Parks Department. She said no total cost has been reached.