Council Considers Standards for Homeless Camps in Tacoma

This week the Tacoma City Council is scheduled to hold a public hearing on standards for homeless camps hosted by religious groups. The proposed standards are part of a proposal to establish a permitting process and development standards for the temporary homeless camps within Tacoma. 

State law allows religious institutions to host the camps on their property for people experiencing homelessness. Tacoma has not had anyone express interest in hosting such a camp, but in anticipation of the possiblity, the City is proposing standards outlining size, location, facilities, and other criteria for the camps:

  • Maximum occupancy per camp: 100 residents 
  • Maximum number of camps allowed to operate within the City at any given time: 2 
  • Minimum  camp site area: 7,500 square feet for first 50 residents, plus 150 square feet for each additional resident 
  • Maximum time on the ground for each camp: 93 days (or 123 days for hard surface or residential sites). 
  • Minimum time to return to site or neighborhood: 2 years from previous camp start date  (or 18 months for hard surface or non‐residential sites). 
  • Camp must be located within ¼ mile of a transit stop. 
  • Perimeter setback: 10 feet from property line. 
  • Perimeter fencing: 6‐foot sight‐obscuring materials. 
  • Shelter/tent separation: 2 feet on sides and rear of shelter; 4 feet from entrance; and 10 feet between group shelters. 
  • Crime Prevention through Environmental Design (CPTED) principles will be applied to the camps during the site plan review. 
  • Warrant and background checks are required for prospective camp residents. 
  • One shower for each 33 residents. 
  • Parking: 2 spaces for every 25 residents. 
  • 14‐day public notice to 400 feet of site. 

The proposed standards are meant to protect the public health and safety of both residents of the camps and of the neighborhoods where they might be located. Although the camps are provided for by state law, they haven't been without controversy when they have appeared in other cities. The public hearing is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, April 1 in City Council chambers.

Do the proposed standards sound adequate for such camps in Tacoma?

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