Tumwater delays discussion on ordinance allowing overnight park use


The Tumwater City Council voted to delay a discussion about an ordinance which, according to public interpretation, would allow indigent individuals to stay overnight in public parks.

The discussion was scheduled for Tuesday, March 26, and was supposed to be the first time since November last year that the council would formally discuss the topic. City Administrator Lisa Parks advised the council to delay the discussion as the public has not been given proper notice about the meeting.

“We've made a strong commitment to the community to ensure that we are giving them proper notice and advance notice of our meetings relating to this topic. I just now, within the last hour, discovered that the scheduled emails and notices on the website have not happened,” Parks explained to the council.

The proposed ordinance primarily applies all park rules, as found in Tumwater Municipal Code (TMC) Chapter 12.32.020, to all city properties. The public is taking issue with a provision in the ordinance that suspends one rule that prohibits night-time loitering in city parks for those who are indigent or experiencing homelessness.

Parks said that the discussion they were supposed to have that day was to review the comments the city received about the issue during a community conversation held at the Tumwater High School Commons on February 12.

The city administrator added that they also intended to discuss city staff’s recommended options on what they can do with the ordinance.

According to documents prepared for the meeting, options include not adopting the ordinance completely, removing the provision allowing for night-time loitering, or modifying the said provision.

Staff prepared a modified version of the provision, which would still allow for night-time loitering for those who are indigent, but if there is no space or bed available in a “reasonably accessible” homeless shelter.

“Enforcement of TMC 12.32.020(F) nighttime exclusion shall be suspended for persons who are indigent and homeless any time there is no space or beds available in reasonably accessible homeless shelters, to the extent such available space is required by law,” the proposed provision stated.

The proposed modification of the provision clarifies that regardless of a homeless shelter’s availability, it would be illegal to camp or store camping equipment within a thousand feet of a park, a childcare facility, or a school.

Such activities would also be prohibited in any area where camping may pose substantial danger to a person, risk harm to public health or safety, or disrupt government services. Homeless camping will also be unlawful in conservation lands, environmentally sensitive areas, or areas next to rivers, streams, or creeks.

We are following this developing story. 


5 comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here

  • AugieH

    The Tumwater City Council is between a rock and a hard place: the public that presumably objects to the homeless camping in a public park and the 2018 Ninth Circuit Court's ruling in Martin vs Boise which essentially says the homeless can't be prevented from camping in a public space if there's no adequate, alternative housing to put them in. If the Council makes a wrong decision, it could be sued.

    Don't shoot the messenger. I'm just sayin'.

    Friday, March 29 Report this

  • Citizen

    The City Council is correct to wait because the US Supreme Court has accepted the Grants Pass Case for review. The Grants Pass case imposed penalties for homeless camping. Most legal analysts believe the Court will overrule and or substantially modify the Martin V. Bosie case.

    Perhaps the City Council is unaware of the Grants Pass case or has failed to research the Grants Pass case. The Grants Pass case is also a Ninth Circuit Case.

    Has the City assess the number of homeless in Tumwater? The number of shelter beds in Tumwater? Absent a survey of homeless & shelter beds is the City knowledgable about the need to change its ordinance?


    Friday, March 29 Report this

  • Citizen

    PS, If necessary, based on a survey of need, the City could allow overnight camping on the property at City Hall. Thus, providing sanitation, police & emergency fire services in one location. Assuring citizens of compliance with overnight camping rules, and providing camping safety and camping sanitation. This solution would also be a low cost as the services are readily available eliminating the need to provide the same services in all of the public land in the City.

    Friday, March 29 Report this

  • olyhiker

    Is someone from the city going to clean up the parks every morning?

    Friday, March 29 Report this

  • Chris_R

    Put boulders in the parks. You say the park will be unusable if that occurs? If the "indigent" are allowed to stay the night, the useability will be even worse. No, of course they won't leave in the morning.

    Saturday, March 30 Report this