No homeless camps planned for Des Moines – but future rules are considered

by Jack Mayne

There are no immediate plans for homeless camps to be established in Des Moines despite a notice that the City Council will consider an ordinance on homeless camps on property owned or controlled by faith-based organizations.

Tony Piasecki, city manager of Des Moines told The Waterland Blog on Monday (Oct. 12) that the city has no ordinances on the city’s books now. That means any type of homeless camp could be established – with no regulation on how or by whom they are operated.

Some observers have worried the city was in the process of approving a homeless camp when it a notice appeared last week on the city’s website that the Council on Nov. 5 was scheduled to consider a draft ordinance on temporary homeless encampments.

No organization has applied to the city for such a facility, Piasecki said.

City must allow camps
The city under 2010 state law (RCW 35.21.915) is required to establish such regulations “which authorize religious organizations to host temporary encampments for homeless persons on property owned or controlled by a religious organization.”

That law says the city cannot prohibit homeless camps or impose any greater conditions than those “necessary to protect public health and safety.”

“The ordinance will be very specific with regard to the rules that must be followed if a faith-based organization wants to sponsor a temporary homeless encampment on property they either own or control,” Piasecki said, such as under a valid lease.

Rules for camps
“This is not like somebody owns a couple acres of property in the downtown area and they decide they are going to let homeless people camp out on it.”

He said there would be a variety of rules about health and sanitation, quiet hours, no drugs and alcohol, no sex offenders – “all that will be covered in the city rules.”

Notice of any such camp must be given to all neighbors in advance or establishment of any such camp.

Piasecki said the city rules would allow only one such encampment each year, so others groups that want such a facility would have to wait until the next calendar year.

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