Puyallup homeless center takes fight over city’s licensing requirements to court

The homeless center in downtown Puyallup has asked a judge to overturn conditions the city has put on its license to operate.

The New Hope Resource Center opened in November 2014 at 414 Spring St., as a daytime drop-in center staffed by local church volunteers. It offers mid-day meals and connections to resources for employment, housing, clothing, mental health and other medical care.

An ongoing dispute between the center and the city has involved conditions such as that the facility have a security guard, outdoor lighting, garbage removal, a code of conduct for its patrons, a fence around the center and a telephone line for community complaints.

The nonprofit that runs the center says it’s already meeting some of the conditions.

And it won a partial victory earlier this year when the city’s hearing examiner overturned a major point of contention — the security guard requirement, which the nonprofit said was unaffordable.

Despite that, New Hope on Monday filed a petition for judicial review in Pierce County Superior Court.

“The conditions being tied to granting us a business license is problematic,” Ric Rose, a board member of Homeward Bound, the nonprofit that does business as New Hope, told The News Tribune.

He said the facility has lighting, a code of conduct and is taking care of garbage on its premises, but contended the way the conditions were imposed lacked due process. The city classified New Hope as a “significant impact business,” the same designation for rendering plants and chemical facilities, which allowed it to impose the new conditions on the facility’s license.

Plus, Rose added, “There’s no guarantee from the city that the conditions that they are putting in place are not going to change.”

City attorney Joe Beck told The News Tribune the city could impose new conditions on New Hope if effects worsen.

“Based on ... new factual evidence ... that could be used to require changes in conditions,” he said.

Beck called the petition for judicial review “a shame,” saying, “We disagree with New Hope’s position in many respects on this. I think it’s too bad we’re at this point, because we were in virtual agreement.”

He told The News Tribune the city would have preferred an independently paid security guard, but would accept the hearing examiner’s decision, which requires security volunteers instead.

Members of the community have complained about about illegal behavior, drug use and public sexual acts near the New Hope facility, according to News Tribune archives.

Complaints about the behavior of homeless people at the center led the City Council to adopt an ordinance in 2016, “determining that providers of social services to the homeless have ‘significant impacts,’ and authorizing the city manager to impose conditions on their business license to ‘mitigate’ these impacts,” attorney John Purbaugh wrote in the nonprofit’s petition.

New Hope appealed the requirements to city hearing examiner Alison Moss, arguing they were unconstitutional. In September, Moss overturned the security guard requirement and upheld others.

“The hearing examiner’s decision found that the city never performed the comparative study it claimed showed New Hope had more police calls than similarly sized businesses,” Purbaugh wrote in the petition, “that the city manager (Kevin Yamamoto) asked the police chief (then Bryan Jeter) to develop data which could support planned security conditions for New Hope; and that the Puyallup Police Department’s report of that data was not created until after conditions requiring a security guard had been announced by the city manager.”

Beck denied that.

He said the Police Department was tracking crime related to New Hope before the conditions were imposed.

“We looked at crime in the area, looked at it from a number of different angles and what it boils down to is it was fairly clear that New Hope was having disproportionate impact from a crime standpoint to other entities,” Beck said.

The business license conditions aren’t Puyallup’s only new regulations on facilities that serve the homeless.

After a 2016 moratorium preventing new such facilities, the city last month adopted regulations that restrict them to 41 parcels in the northwestern corner of the city — away from schools, parks and other “sensitive uses.”

New Hope is grandfathered in, but has said the restrictions would prevent it from changing locations.

Homeward Bound also coordinates the area’s Freezing Nights program — an overnight shelter that from November through March rotates among local churches.

New Hope is the only drop-in center and Freezing Nights the only overnight shelter for the homeless in Puyallup or East Pierce County, the nonprofit’s court filing says.

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Alexis Krell covers local, state and federal court cases that affect Pierce County. She started covering courts in 2016. Before that she wrote about crime and breaking news for almost four years as The News Tribune’s night reporter.