Overnight camping may be allowed in Vancouver public places - KPTV - FOX 12

Overnight camping may be allowed in Vancouver public places

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VANCOUVER, WA (KPTV) -

Homeless people would be allowed to camp overnight in public places, if the Vancouver City Council approves a change to the city’s unlawful camping ordinance.

Camping would be allowed from 9:30 pm. to 6:30 a.m.

Andy Silver, the executive director of the Council for the Homeless, said allowing overnight camping is an important step forward.

“I think it’s important to realize that we don’t have shelter space, unfortunately, available for everyone who is homeless,” he said.

Silver said they had to turn away 722 people, or 88% of the people who called, the emergency housing hotline this summer.

“This is one thing that’s been difficult, is people will ask us, ‘you know the shelter’s full, where can I go? Where can I go where the police aren’t going to ask me to move?” said Silver. “And we don’t have answers for them. At least now we can say during certain hours at night you can use your sleeping bag and sleep in public property.”

Jerrol Stanley, who used to be homeless, said allowing overnight camping is a good solution for people who have nowhere else to sleep.

“It gives you a place where you can go, feel a little more secure,” he said.

Some members of the homeless community say the  change doesn’t do enough to address the issues they face.

“I don’t really see how it’s going to help to be honest. Maybe temporarily. People are just going to flop anywhere. That’s the picture I get,” said Ken Burns, who is homeless. “They need something like, a complex where they got 400 dollar month places, something affordable for lower income.”

City staff is recommending the change to make sure the unlawful camping ordinance is legal and defensible, according to Jonathan Young, who works in the Vancouver City Attorney’s Office.

Young said the council recognizes changing the ordinance is an interim step and long term solutions to housing availability are needed.

The city council is expected to vote on the proposed ordinance change on September 21.

If approved, the changes would go into effect 30 days afterward.

The city would still enforce other public health and safety ordinances, including park closure hours, disorderly conduct and drinking in public.

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