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Puyallup homeless center opposing city’s new rules as unconstitutional

Homeless people wait for New Hope Resource Center in downtown Puyallup to open at 5:30 p.m. as part of its Freezing Night Program, Din December. At 7 p.m. they will be taken to churches that volunteer sleeping space for the night. The city has imposed new rules on the center, designating it as high impact.
Homeless people wait for New Hope Resource Center in downtown Puyallup to open at 5:30 p.m. as part of its Freezing Night Program, Din December. At 7 p.m. they will be taken to churches that volunteer sleeping space for the night. The city has imposed new rules on the center, designating it as high impact. phaley@thenewstribune.com

A controversial Puyallup homeless help center is fighting back against the city’s new “high impact” business licensing requirements.

New Hope Resource Center, which provides meals, counseling and referral services to Puyallup’s homeless population, contends the city’s new licensing requirements limit religious freedom, impose an unjustified burden on the nonprofit organization, and violate the U.S. and Washington constitutions.

Those charges came in an appeal filed with the city’s hearing examiner.

The city imposed those new conditions in mid-March in an effort to answer concerns about the effects of the center operating near the city’s downtown.

New Hope, which opened in 2014 at 414 Spring St., has been a lightning rod for citizens and business people who have complained about illegal behavior, drug use and public sexual acts by people they say are visiting the center.

The city classified New Hope as a “high impact business,” putting it in the same category as rendering plants and chemical factories whose presence had outsized effects on the surrounding neighborhoods and business districts.

After negotiations with New Hope failed to reach an agreement on new conditions, the city moved ahead with the new rules.

Among those conditions the city wanted were construction of a fence surrounding the center, employment of a uniformed security guard during the center’s busiest times, periodic removal of trash from center grounds, creation of a code of conduct for center users, installation of new lighting on the building exterior, and creation of a telephone complaint line where citizens could register complaints about the center and its clientele.

The center had told the city during negotiations that it considered some of those rules, particularly the security guard requirement, unneeded and unaffordable.

New Hope is supported by a coalition of area churches that provide volunteers and funds to operate the center and that offer overnight shelter to the homeless during the colder months.

In its appeal, New Hope’s attorney, John Purbaugh, said the city had failed to enumerate the reasons for the new rules, had disregarded the center’s grandfathered rights under its previous business license and had treated New Hope differently from non-religiously affiliated homeless aid groups.

“The decision is willful, unreasoned, made without consideration of or in disregard of material facts and circumstances, and is therefore arbitrary and capricious,” the appeal concludes.

No date has yet been set for a hearing on the appeal, said Puyallup spokeswoman Brenda Fritsvold.

John Gillie: 253-597-8663

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