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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

No motorhomes have been towed under a 2022 Wenatchee law, but that could change as more are living in RVs

By Oscar Rodriguez The Wenatchee World

WENATCHEE — More than year after the city of Wenatchee passed an ordinance making it easier to tow illegally parked vehicles, the Wenatchee Police Department said it hasn’t towed anyone believed to be living in their vehicles, but it might soon have to given a sudden influx of RVs on the street.

The ordinance that passed in October 2022 was meant to address illegally parked RVs around the city where people lived out of their vehicles. If a vehicle is parked illegally, the department’s traffic enforcement officer can issue a citation.

But if police believe someone is living out of the vehicle, then the response is more complicated and requires “checking a lot of boxes,” said Capt. Edgar Reinfeld.

Under City of Seattle v. Steven Long, the city is not allowed to remove cars and campers that individuals use as homes.

The decision was upheld in the state Supreme Court, U.S. Court of Appeals and King County Superior Court sided with Long who had the truck he was living out of towed and impounded in 2016.

The city of Wenatchee has towed some vehicles used as residences before the 2022 ordinance if they’re found in violation of the city’s chronic nuisance code.

The police department will attempt to connect the individual with relevant resources, such as the Wenatchee Rescue Mission, which operates the city’s two Safe Parks for RVs.

Reinfeld said the goal is to solve issues rather than immediately tow the person, which wouldn’t resolve the person’s problem.

But police may begin towing vehicles belonging to people they’ve been “chasing around the city” and who have declined services, he said.

More RVs on the streets

Scott Johnson, the Wenatchee Rescue Mission director, said his organization is aware of three or four people who do not want to bring in their RVs into the Safe Parks and are currently working with them.

The issue now is a sudden influx of new RVs that certain businesses and private residents in both East Wenatchee and Wenatchee have provided old motorhomes to unhoused individuals.

Before the influx, the two Safe Parks could accommodate few RVs remaining on the streets. But now, with about nine or 10 out in the city, getting them off the streets is tougher.

“If you have an old RV, don’t give it out,” Johnson said. “We love the generosity from people trying to help, but it’s not helping.”

Johnson also noted that amidst the influx of RVs, he’s heard rumors that these people are from West side of the state. However, those in the area living in the RVs and motorhomes are all local residents, he said.

Johnson suggests any business owner or resident in contact with a homeless individual should reach out to the Wenatchee Rescue Mission. People can call their office at (509) 663-4289.

For abandoned vehicles, police mark the vehicle and attempt to contact its owner. If the owner refuses to move the vehicle or the police are unable to contact the owner, then police tow the vehicle after 24 hours.

Reinfeld noted that police have dealt with abandoned vehicles on regular basis throughout his career.