[Hpn] seattletimes.com: Tent-city rules plan draws wide opposition

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Tue, 8 Feb 2005 04:57:20 -0800

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Tent-city rules plan draws wide opposition
Full story: http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2002173808_tent08e.html

By Rachel Tuinstra
Seattle Times Eastside bureau

 Tent City 4 opponents and proponents agreed on one thing yesterday: Neither side likes a King County proposal for new policy and procedures for the encampment.

The Metropolitan King County Council is developing guidelines for homeless encampments sited on land in unincorporated areas. 

The council heard from 25 people during a committee meeting yesterday morning. It plans to take the issue up again during its Feb. 22 meeting, said Councilwoman Carolyn Edmonds, who has been working on the proposed legislation since April.  

"The proposal doesn't please anybody," she said. "That tells me we have struck a compromise." 

The council will consider some of the speakers' comments as it  fine-tunes the proposal over the next few weeks,  she said.

 The proposal would mandate that all residents and businesses within 500 feet of a proposed encampment site be notified about the impending move at least 30 days before and that at least one community meeting be held. 

The proposal would not affect encampments inside cities. 

Mark Vander, a resident of Tent City 4 for five months, said the encampment, now  at St. John Mary Vianney Catholic Church in the Eastside's Finn Hill neighborhood, is struggling to find a place to go when its temporary-use permit expires Feb. 20. He said he is hopeful that the county's final policy would help the tent city find places to locate in the future. 

"Right now, the process we have makes it almost impossible to do things the way they want it done," he said. "We need a change. We hope this will make a difference."

Other policy highlights include: 

• A one-year moratorium on using county land as a temporary site for homeless encampments. 

• A requirement that homeless encampments apply for a temporary-use permit at least 30 days before moving to a new site.

• A limit on the population of a homeless camp of 90 people for the remainder of 2005, and no more than 75 residents starting next year. 

The proposal may make it more difficult for the tent city to find places to move to, said Lynn Mathews, a volunteer with Eastsidecares.org, a group that supports Tent City 4. 

In particular, she disagrees with the one-year moratorium on county land being used for the encampment. "I feel the ordinance, as it stands, is too restrictive," she said. "The county shouldn't be making things harder for them to access temporary shelter like a tent city. The county should be more supportive."

Scott St. Clair, a tent-city opponent, told the council that he felt the county was caving in to a special-interest group.

"The proposal calls for minimal buffer zones and minimal [arrest] warrant checks," St. Clair said. "I don't believe the ordinance recognizes the legitimate needs of parents and citizens."

Rachel Tuinstra: 206-515-5637 or rtuinstra@seattletimes.com


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