The City of Hoquiam now has a way to regulate homeless encampments.
Following months of discussion, the Hoquiam City Council on Monday night approved an ordinance that puts limits and regulations on how local churches can host homeless encampments. In April, the Planning Commission received the first draft of the proposed ordinance.
Following multiple public hearings and testimony from local residents and clergy, an amended ordinance was sent back to the council. City staff amended the rules further to exclude portions that may be considered overreaching.
Excluded in the final draft was a section that required clergy to notify police if they exclude residents who have active municipal court warrants. Opponents of this section stated that it would go against confidentiality of confession.
Another portion amended allows the church to appeal a decision to revoke their permit and allow 14 days to amend violations.
Reverend Michelle de Beauchamp told the council before the vote, that the amended rules were a compromise that works for all sides.
On Monday, the council approved that amended ordinance.
De Beauchamp said at the meeting, that while this ordinance is a step forward, there is more that could be done.
Currently, “River City” is housed at the Our Lady of Good Help Catholic Church in Hoquiam.
Despite this encampment being placed prior to the new rules, it will still be limited to a 120 day limit when the ordinance is filed.
RCW 36.01.290 states that cities and counties can impose rules on homeless encampments, so long as that it “Imposes conditions other than those necessary to protect public health and safety and that do not substantially burden the decisions or actions of a religious organization regarding the location of housing or shelter for homeless persons on property owned by the religious organization”.