King County Councilmember Reagan Dunn on Monday proposed a motion that would require King County to develop standards for the removal of homeless encampments. These camps have formed on public property in unincorporated areas of King County, which includes rural, suburban and some urban areas of the County, causing public health and safety concerns.
“Right now, King County is dedicating hundreds of millions of dollars to homelessness services and prevention,” Dunn said. “As these services ramp up, we also need to directly address the homeless encampments and connect folks who live there with available resources. People who are homeless shouldn’t be ignored and left to live on the streets. It’s bad for them and for the nearby community. If there is shelter space available, King County needs to be proactive about getting them off our streets and out of our parks.”
The standards would include conditions for when King County will remove an encampment, including when the camp presents a public health hazard through the presence of untreated sewage, biohazardous waste, or exposure to infectious diseases; when the camp is a fire hazard; if there are reports of violence or criminal activity; if the camp obstructs access to rights of way or public resources such as playgrounds or schools; or creates ADA accessibility issues.
The guidelines would also specify conditions under which encampments wouldn’t be removed, such as if there is a lack of available shelter space.
In the current biennium, King County has allocated almost $220 million to homelessness services, including permanent supportive housing, shelter space, rapid re-housing and behavioral health services. An additional $254 million has been allocated to prevent loss of housing through direct financial assistance with rental payments.
The motion will be referred to the Community, Health, and Housing Services Committee at next the meeting of the King County Council on Tuesday, July 13.
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