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Aberdeen City Council approve changes to tamp down public camping/empty former TASL camp

The Aberdeen City Council took two actions on Wednesday directly related to addressing homeless camping within the city. 

Both are moving forward, but neither action had unanimous approval by the city council.

The first action occurred following a report from the Public Works Committee that requested additional parking and security for city vehicles at City Hall. 

These improvements include adding a perimeter fence around the City Hall parking lot that had been used to house the Temporary Alternative Shelter Location (TASL) and continues to have homeless residents camping on the property illegally.

This fencing would be similar to the measures taken around the Aberdeen Police Department parking lot and would require the removal of any camping items currently on the property.

Council President Dee Anne Shaw asked during the meeting if this was allowable under Martin v. Boise restrictions on homelessness.

Public Works Director Rick Sangder did not mince words in his response, saying that the lot was not identified as one of the areas of the city that allowed for public camping, and therefore did not fall under the restrictions as such.

 

The improvements would allow City of Aberdeen vehicles and equipment to be secured at night in a private parking lot when employees are not onsite and have the ability to allow employee vehicles to use the secured lot during the workday.

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The second action taken on Wednesday involved the First Reading of updating Aberdeen Municipal Code to allow for enforcement of public camping rules with legal action.

Under a report, it cites the public camping ordinance within the city, and says that under the Martin v. Boise decision that police were limited on enforcing rules if there is no overnight shelter for individuals experiencing homelessness.

This change would not eliminate those limitations.

Under Ordinance 6642, passed in February, 2019 by the city, it amended the current camping ordinance to come into compliance. According to the report, that ordinance also decriminalized the remainder of the public camping rules. This has limited the response allowable if someone were to go against the laws.

If eventually approved, the change would amend the Aberdeen Municipal Code to allow for misdemeanor charges if someone violates the law.

Attorney Jeff Myers addressed the legalities of the action and impact of the change.


This was the first reading on the proposed ordinance. 

The 2nd reading on the ordinance will be public hearing, and it is set for the next Aberdeen City Council meeting on September 27.


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