Hoquiam could add more rules for long term camping and homeless encampments

The may become the first local city to enact an official 90 day policy for homeless encampments.

On Wednesday night, the Hoquiam Planning Commission heard comments from local residents, clergy, and homeless residents regarding a proposed ordinance to govern homeless encampments within the city. Around 40 people filled the chambers for a public meeting to share their thoughts on the draft rules.

The vast majority of those in attendance wore pins showing their support of “Tent City”, currently housed at First Baptist Church on Eklund, which has been in operation longer than the 90 day proposed limit. Among those who spoke at the public hearing were numerous local clergy, including Jeani Shofner, pastor with First Presbyterian Church of Hoquiam, who stated that this issue is not singular to our area.

“None of us involved with homeless encampments believe that it is a solution to the homeless condition; either in our community, the broader community of Grays Harbor County, the state, nationwide. But, it is an opportunity to help those who we can and bring the issue forward to the public eye.

Dave, a resident within the encampment spoke on how he and his girlfriend of 13 years lost their housing and started living on the streets recently, and how Tent City has assisted them.

“…you look at it and you say, oh boy that’s not very beautiful or that’s not very nice looking. But to the people who are staying there, it’s everything.”

Dave Murnan, Planning Commission Member and Executive Director of Neighborworks of Grays Harbor, told the commission and the crowd that he felt the rules were unneeded altogether

“…people who are in the encampments, at the churches, have a much better chance of receiving services that they may need than they are if they are helter skelter, along the river banks, and unknown to us all.”

Many of the rules proposed for homeless encampments are already covered under city law. Currently, the City of Hoquiam has rules on their municipal code that prohibit long term tent camping within the city. Their municipal code allows overnight tent camping for special events, or for a resident to allow family, friends, or guests to camp for up to 7 days. These regulations also require permission from the City, as well as a breakdown on the proposed number of residents, the layout, as well as contact information. These rules also dictate that proper water, sewer, garbage, sanitation, and food facilities be present.

No decision was made at the meeting on Wednesday, and the commission discussed looking over data and holding another public hearing at a later date.

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