Puyallup: News

Justice Department closes investigation into Puyallup’s attempted crackdown on New Hope

The Department of Justice has dropped its investigation into whether the city of Puyallup violated federal law when it tried to place operational requirements on the New Hope Resource Center, including requiring a security guard at the center and a telephone line for complaints.

The city repealed the ordinance in July, stating that instead it would focus efforts on chronic nuisance laws rather than singling out the only resource center for those experiencing homelessness.

Since Puyallup pulled back, Homeward Bound, parent company of New Hope, dropped a lawsuit against the city, and the Justice Department recently closed its investigation into possible violations of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act.

New Hope is considered a faith-based daytime center to help the homeless access resources.

In the three years the investigation was underway, the city produced almost 7,000 pages of documents, according to city spokeswoman Brenda Fritsvold said. On July 25, Justice Department officials sent a letter to city attorney Joe Beck, notifying the city the investigation was being closed.

The ordinance, which was passed three years ago, created new conditions for businesses deemed “high-impact” for their side effects to the surrounding neighborhoods. The council voted that any property labeled “high-impact” would need to fence off its facilities, hire security guards, improve background checks on clients, improve outdoor lighting and garbage removal and provide a phone for community complaints.

The New Hope Resource Center was the only business in Puyallup labeled as “high-impact.”

Dealing with homelessness has cost the city more than $1 million dollars on litigation, enforcement and programs in the past three years, Beck told The Puyallup Herald in June.

The state Growth Management Board also has told Puyallup to revise a separate law restricting homeless service providers to designated parcels in the northwest corner of the city, where manufacturing businesses operate. The board took issue with the lack of access to public transportation and pedestrian friendly routes, and the 1,000-foot buffer between service providers and “sensitive” properties like schools,parks, trails, libraries, day cares, preschools and special-needs senior housing.

The Puyallup City Council heard revision updates from the planning department and is expected to vote on changes in September.

Josephine Peterson covers Pierce County and Puyallup for The News Tribune and The Puyallup Herald. She previously worked at The News Journal in Delaware as the crime reporter and interned at The Washington Post.