Vancouver city councilors to allow overnight camping - KPTV - FOX 12

Vancouver city councilors to allow overnight camping

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VANCOUVER, WA (KPTV) -

Vancouver city councilors voted Monday night to allow overnight camping on public property, essentially allowing a growing “tent city” on West 12th Street to continue, as affordable housing and day center options become available.

According to the city, the encampment has been growing significantly in recent weeks primarily due to two factors: a lack of affordable housing in Vancouver and new development along the river, pushing people who had been staying there out into new areas.

Before Monday’s vote, Vancouver had an ordinance banning overnight camping.  This amendment allowing overnight camping on public property between 9:30 p.m. and 6:30 a.m. will go into effect in 30 days.

Jonathan Young with the City Attorney’s Office told Fox 12 the council’s decision came on the heels of a recent case in another state, in which a court found a similar ordinance banning overnight camping in public places to be “cruel and unusual punishment,” finding that people needed to have somewhere to sleep.

The amendment will not, however, change other existing laws restricting overnight camping.  For instance, parks have a curfew and camping there overnight will remain illegal. 

But don’t expect to see the tents come down during the day.

As far as law enforcement goes, Young said the Chief of Police told councilors enforcing illegal camping violations is not a high priority, compared to crimes against people or property.  That essentially means people living in the encampment can continue to do so without interference from police.

Young said that doesn’t mean police won’t be enforcing other things, like drinking or fighting in public, as well as issues of health and sanitation. 

Neighbors and business owners have complained about the encampment, which now encompasses some 30 or more tents.

The city expects the encampment to drastically shrink in coming months, as affordable housing projects are completed and a day center is finished. 

Additional shelter options are also expected to become available in the winter months as the colder weather moves in.

Young said the council’s decision is certainly not a cure-all, and the city knows this is a symptom of the larger problem of a lack of available, affordable housing.

He said the city is working with community partners to address that larger issue, as city councilors passed three other ordinances at Monday night’s meeting: increasing the amount of time required for a landlord to provide a tenant with an eviction notice to 60 days, imposing a 45 day requirement for notice of a rent increase to be given, and making it unlawful for a landlord to consider the source of someone’s income (i.e. housing vouchers, subsidies, etc.) as a basis for deciding whether to rent to them.

Those ordinances will also go into effect in 30 days.

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