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Encampment Cleanups and Site Reclamation

Our Approach to Addressing Encampments

Encampments create a public safety concern for people who live in the space, because of the exposure to human waste, drug paraphernalia and/or inclement weather. While we continue to invest in shelter and expand the types of sheltering available in Tacoma, we also invest in outreach to connect people, when they are ready, to available resources.

 

Effective November 14, 2022, Second Amended Substitute Ordinance 28831, prohibits camping and the storage of personal belongings in a 10-block radius around temporary shelters in Tacoma as well as Aspen Court (a City-permitted emergency and transitional housing facility) and all public property within 200 feet of Tacoma’s mapped rivers, waterways, creeks, streams, and shorelines.


It is the City’s priority that the least restrictive voluntary enforcement methods possible are used prior to enforcement of the ordinance, which has a maximum fine of $250 and the maximum allowable time for imprisonment of 30 days or less.

 

The City will continue to address encampments inside and outside camping prohibited zones with priority given to sites with health, safety or infrastructure needs; this aligns with how encampment removals are conducted throughout Tacoma.

 

We will notice each prohibited camping area as defined by TMC 8.19 no less than two weeks prior to initial enforcement, so that interested organizations and community groups can offer assistance and resources as needed. 

  

Standard Operating Procedure for Enforcement and Removals in Prohibited Areas under Chapter 8.19 Tacoma Municipal Code

Information in the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) shall apply to the unauthorized camping or unauthorized storage of personal property on public property within prohibited areas covered by Chapter 8.19 Tacoma Municipal Code (TMC) only.  Encampments outside of these prohibited areas shall be addressed under the City’s Encampment Removal Policy. Both policies can be subject to change.

Read the Camping Restricted Area Removal Procedures

 

Encampments may be reported to the City through SeeClickFix. All requests are investigated by the City's Homeless Engagement Alternatives Liaison (HEAL) Team who determine the appropriate method for removing active sites.

 

View the Map of Prohibited Areas

 

Individual Maps per Restricted Camping Area

 

Altheimer Memorial Church Aspen Court Bethlehem Baptist Church Mitigation Site at South 35th and Pacific Mitigation Site at South 82nd and Pacific
Rise Center Emergency Stabilization Shelter Shiloh Baptist Church Tacoma Emergency Micro-Shelter Site #3 Tacoma Emergency Micro-Shelter Site #4 Tacoma Stability Site

 

Encampment Removal

The City of Tacoma inspects and removes unauthorized encampments on a routine basis based on complaints received and the conditions of the encampment including with health, safety or infrastructure needs.

 

If items were stored, they will be kept at 1421 Puyallup Avenue (unless the owner of the items is otherwise notified) and an appointment to access items may be made by calling 3-1-1 and indicating that you with to retrieve stored items.

 

How Cleanups Work

City staff find or are notified of an encampment site. The City's Homeless Engagement and Alternative Liaison Team visit the site and determine next steps.

 

If the site is located within a boundary restricted by ordinance, the site is posted with at least 2-weeks notice (unless otherwise authorized) that the property will be cleaned up and those living in the encampment are offered assistance finding shelter and services. 


Sites outside the restricted areas will be posted for a minimum of 72-hours.

 

On the scheduled cleanup day a private contractor or City services will clean up the site to meet Tacoma Municipal Code standards for public health and safety.

 

Site Reclamation may occur once the site has been cleaned to help prevent the encampment from returning.

 

Site Reclamation

It is common for encampments to re-populate or move to a nearby location after the City has conducted a cleanup. It is not unlawful for individuals to be homeless in public places, except in limited and specific circumstances.

 

Site Reclamation is the process of making public and private spaces safer and more welcoming for people who live or work in the area to be, while discouraging criminal activity and loitering.

 

Site Reclamation is used in conjunction with community outreach and service delivery to help individuals and families who are experiencing homelessness settle into more permanent housing options, as well as using it to reduce blight and increase public health and safety.

 

Response to Encampments on Non-City Owned Property

Response to Encampments on Private Property

The City generally does not perform public encampment cleanups on private property. The City will follow the Tacoma Municipal Code to work with private property owners to ensure encampments are abated.

 

Property owners are responsible for addressing homeless encampments that occur on their property.

 

Code Compliance responds to encampment-related issues on private properties and will follow normal code compliance procedures per the Tacoma Municipal Code.

 

The City offers property owners resources such as No Trespass orders and Crime Prevention through Environmental Design (CPTED) assessments to assist property owners in mitigating future issues. In limited circumstances, the City may be able to assist private property owners with a removal of an encampment at no cost. For more information, contact SeeClickFix or dial 311.

 

Encampments are generally removed by the property owner, in partnership with Tacoma Police. If they do not correct the issue on their own, the City may abate the encampment at the expense of the property owner.

 

Response to Encampments on Other Public Property

The City generally does not perform encampment cleanups on non-City owned public property.

 

If the City receives a complaint of an encampment on non-City owned public property, (WSDOT, Tacoma Schools, Sound Transit) the property owner is notified of the issue by City staff.

 

Tacoma residents concerned with an unauthorized encampment on a non- City owned public property are encouraged to contact the property owner directly to learn about their response plan.

 

Glossary of Terms

  • Authorized Encampment – Temporary homeless encampments that are sanctioned under Ordinance No. 28460, which requires them to be located on property that is owned by the City, faith based organizations or non-profits, are permitted and provide basic human amenities for a specific amount for time.
  • Basic Human Amenities – Amenities include portable toilets, waste receptacles, potable water and handwashing stations.
  • Chronically Homeless – Federal definition which defines a chronically homeless person as “either (1) an unaccompanied homeless individual with a disabling condition who has been continuously homeless for a year or more, OR (2) an unaccompanied individual with a disabling condition who has had at least four episodes of homelessness in the past three years.”
  • Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) - Provides guidelines for property owners to use to lower or prevent environmental factors from creating an opportunity for crime.
  • Emergency Shelter – The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development defines emergency shelter as “any facility, the primary purpose of which is to provide temporary or transitional shelter for the homeless in general or for specific populations of the homeless.”
  • Emphasis Area – A geographic zone that is routinely patrolled to prevent health and safety concerns related to encampment activity.
  • Encampment Cleanup – The removal of debris and waste created by people living outdoors on public or private property and the reclamation of the site.
  • HOT – Homelessness Outreach Team, which is a cross function team of Tacoma Police Officers, EMS personnel, mental health providers and outreach staff who work with people experiencing homelessness to connect them with services while also enforcing laws.
  • Mitigation – Alleviating and/or reducing the health and safety impacts on people living in encampments and those who live or work in surrounding areas.
  • People Experiencing Homelessness - The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development defines people experiencing homelessness as “an individual who lacks a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence; as well an individual who has a primary nighttime residence that is a supervised publicly or privately operated shelter designed to provide temporary living accommodations, an institution that provides a temporary residence for individuals intended to be institutionalized; or a public or private place not designed for, or ordinarily used as, a regular sleeping accommodation for human beings.”
  • Short-Term Transitional Housing – Housing options for people who have been experiencing homelessness that provides stable housing while they receive services to find permanent housing solutions.
  • Site Activation – The process of making public spaces more dynamic and engaging for the surrounding to community.
  • Site Monitoring – Patrolling of reclaimed public spaces to prevent health and safety concerns related to encampment activity.
  • Site Reclamation - The process of making public and private spaces safer and more welcoming for people who live or work in the area to be, while discouraging criminal activity and loitering.
  • Unaccompanied minors – People ages 12-17 who do not have a parent or guardian with them.
  • Unauthorized Encampment – Homeless camps on public or private property that do not meet requirements under Ordinance No. 28460.