Puyallup: News

Puyallup amends law restricting homeless center locations. Will it satisfy the state?

The Puyallup City Council has voted to revise a law that restricts where homeless centers can be located after the original ordinance was rejected by a state hearings board.

The changes broaden the designated sites for homeless shelters while continuing to limit their proximity to hospitals, schools and day care centers.

The measure restricts potential locations for homeless drop-in centers or overnight shelters but does not address the encampments many residents complained of at the Sept. 24 meeting.

The 4-3 decision created a 500-foot buffer between any new homeless service centers and hospitals and businesses and 1000-foot buffers between homeless centers and day care centers and schools.

Over the summer, the Growth Management Hearings Board ruled that Puyallup’s previous restrictions were too limited. The original ordinance gave homeless service centers 198 potential acres as options, but the state hearings board declared there needed to be more access to public transportation and pedestrian friendly areas.

The new amendments add 219 more accessible acres. Those who opposed the amended ordinance, council members Julie Door, Robin Farris and Mayor John Palmer, were worried about the amendments might also be rejected by the state.

City Attorney Joe Beck told the council if the hearings board disapproved of the law, there could be consequences, including sanctions from the governor.

The City Council passed the original law last October to place homeless centers in the industrial corner of the city. The New Hope Resource Center’s parent non-profit, Homeward Bound, brought the measure before the board.

Before the Sept. 24 vote, residents and hospital employees, including MultiCare Good Samaritan Hospital’s chief operating officer Chris Bredeson, spoke against having homeless centers in medical areas.

Concerned over the safety of patients and staff, Bredeson told the City Council he “respectfully requests medical zones’ removal for this proposal.”

Council members Tom Swanson, Jim Kastama, Cyndy Jacobsen and Dean Johnson supported the amendments, with all stating it was the city’s job to protect the most vulnerable populations.

In the past five years, the City of Puyallup has spent more money — by 26 percent — on litigation pertaining to homelessness than on community services to help those in need, including the homeless population.

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.