Arrow-right Camera

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper The Spokesman-Review

Monday, October 19, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
Partly Cloudy Night 49° Partly Cloudy
News >  WA Government

Emergency homeless ‘camps’ would be exempt from some state rules

UPDATED: Tue., March 5, 2019

The Legislative Building at the Capitol in Olympia. (Associated Press)
The Legislative Building at the Capitol in Olympia. (Associated Press)

OLYMPIA – Local governments would be able to avoid some state environmental rules to set up temporary homeless “camps” in emergency situations, under a bill approved by the Senate.

In a bipartisan vote that featured opposition from some conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats, the Senate passed a proposal that would let cities and counties set up a temporary shelter or transitional encampment for the homeless if it has no more than 200 beds and will be on the site for no more than three years. The shelters can be tents, modular structures or vehicles and have common food preparation and shower facilities.

One amendment added during the debate requires that the facility not allow alcohol or drugs, except medicine prescribed by a physician, to qualify for the exemption. Another said it can’t be within 1,000 feet of a school or an early learning facility. A third requires the city or county to declare a state of emergency on homelessness.

Sen. Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale, a frequent critic of restrictions in the environmental policy act, objected to exempting any homeless camps from the public notice requirements in the act, saying residents have a right to know about those plans and present objections.

“People are going to wake up one day and find out the field next door has been turned into a homeless camp,” he said. “Is that fair?”

Sen. Christine Rolfes, D-Bainbridge Island, said she’s probably never been swayed by an Ericksen speech before, but was in this case. “I’m convinced we don’t have the neighborhood notifications properly in place.”

But others said the proposal had been improved in a bipartisan manner and sent it to the House on a 35-12 vote.

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

Local journalism is essential.

Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.

Subscribe to the Coronavirus newsletter

Get the day’s latest Coronavirus news delivered to your inbox by subscribing to our newsletter.

New health insurance plans available November 1 through Washington Healthplanfinder

 (Photo courtesy WAHBE)

Fall means the onset of the cold and flu season.