Planning for Temporary Homeless Encampments Workshop

Join us for this excellent one day workshop supporting planners on this important issue!

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Jurisdictions across Washington State are facing an unprecedented increase in the number of unsheltered individuals and families. While continuing efforts focus on the development of long-term housing, little effort has been spent on developing standards and best management practices for communities to effectively regulate temporary encampments (in existing buildings, tents or tiny homes) and safe parking areas.     

Although many Washington jurisdictions have adopted interim or permanent rules for temporary homeless encampments, most likely with the help of another jurisdiction’s rules, the effectiveness of these regulations is not clear, nor have best practices been established.

As needed as they are, temporary encampments have frequently been subject to appeal by community members and business owners. Issues raised in these appeals are often related to public safety, with a significant emphasis on limiting the number of encampment residents as a means to lessen perceived impacts. However, a review adopted regulations does not indicate that there is a clear relationship between size and potential impacts. Setting maximums seems more based on having round numbers than on any empirical study or evidence. In adopting regulations, discussions often default to “that sounds too big” and an almost arbitrary reduction in the number of people proposed to be located at a site.

The real issue seems to be the behaviors near the shelter and not the behavior of the residents who have been admitted to the encampments themselves. As such, standards other than caps need to be identified that work for the site and neighboring community. These could include ample space on the subject site and in the encampment itself for queuing and gathering, on-site supervision 24/7, a code of conduct, and other such measures.    

Washington APA believes the time is right to provide resources to planners on this issue.

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