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Metropolitan King County
Council News

County Council takes action on homeless encampments


Renewing legislation while maintaining commitment to find long-term stable housing for homeless individuals


The Metropolitan King County Council on Monday unanimously approved an ordinance renewing and extending the ability to locate homeless encampments in unincorporated King County for the next 10 years. The ordinance, proposed by County Executive Dow Constantine and sponsored by Councilmember Rod Dembowski, adds new provisions for community notice and enforcement of health and safety codes. The ordinance also acknowledges that encampments are far from an ideal solution to address homelessness in King County, but a necessary reality to protect some of the County’s most vulnerable residents.

“This is an ordinance my colleagues and I hoped we would never have to consider, but the unfortunate reality is that homelessness is still a serious issue in this county,” said Dembowski. “We must renew our commitment to end this systemic problem with every tool at our disposal.”

Since 2005, King County has worked in partnership with the Committee to End Homelessness to implement the Ten-Year Plan to End Homelessness and address root causes. While Monday’s action is evidence that homelessness has not ended in King County, the effort has successfully funded 5,685 new units of permanent housing, and supports 2,763 emergency shelter units and 2,638 transitional housing units. Despite these efforts, in January, during the annual “One Night Count for Homeless,” volunteers located 3,123 individuals living without shelter in King County.

“In every part of King County, people are struggling with homelessness. By renewing this ordinance, the King County Council is acknowledging that we have much more work to do to ensure that no one sleeps outside,” said Alison Eisinger, Executive Director of the Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness. “For years, organized tent cities in King County have successfully provided individuals and communities an alternative to people surviving on their own outside. They offer important additional measures of safety and stability, as well as opportunities for concerned members of the public to learn about and take action on homelessness by helping neighbors. Living in tents is an interim means of survival. As we approach the annual One Night Count of people who are homeless outside, the Coalition on Homelessness calls on community members and elected officials across King County to redouble the needed public investments so that no woman sleeps under a bridge, no man on a bench, and no child in a car in King County.”

The ordinance includes an amendment from Dembowski which aims to strengthen King County’s commitment to end homelessness. The amendment requires the County Executive to prepare two reports. The first report examines what it would take to develop one or more micro-housing communities, such as Quixote Village in Olympia, and the second would analyze the availability of appropriate County-owned land that could be used for micro-housing communities.

“My goal is to identify long-term stable housing and put an end to the ongoing cycle of temporary and emergency shelters,” Dembowski said. “Innovative housing projects that are better options for both the homeless and the taxpayer are being implemented throughout the country, and we need to seriously consider these ideas.”

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