Politics & Government

Tent cities for Tacoma’s homeless to get $3.4 million and open soon

Tacoma is prepped to start the second phase of its three-step approach to fighting the city’s homelessness problem later this month by erecting temporary emergency shelters — or what are generally described as tent cities.

The City Council on Tuesday approved an emergency measure that would allow the siting of a tent city at the intersection of Puyallup Avenue and Portland Avenue East, near the Tideflats. That site is expected to be operational by June 26.

It also voted to spend $3.4 million on the emergency-shelter effort. About $1.2 million of that would come from money left over from the 2016 budget, and $2.2 million from the sale of a Tacoma Rail Mountain Division property, the city said in a news release.

The $3.4 million was the cheapest of three options the council reviewed at a study session earlier Tuesday.

Councilman Ryan Mello said he expects city manager Elizabeth Pauli to brief the council in August on how things are going and possibly ask for more money then.

The council declared a public health emergency related to the city’s homeless encampments in May. It instructed Pauli to come up with a plan for a three-pronged approach to easing the problem.

The first step is mitigation, and the city last month began addressing some of the health and safety issues at homeless camps and stepping up enforcement of illegal activities that stem from them.

The second phase is providing temporary emergency shelters on public property, which the Tuesday vote addressed.

The final phase is providing long-term housing so people can transition back into society. That plan is still in the works.

Mayor Marilyn Strickland, who has described Tacoma’s homelessness situation as “a crisis,” also said the city would looking into reforming housing laws so that it would be more difficult for people to become homeless in the first place.

“We’re going to examine any rules and ordinances we can consider for rental housing policies to keep people housed so they don’t end up homeless,” she said Tuesday.

The emergency measure will be effective for at least six months and is subject to a public hearing July 25, city planning staff said.

Candice Ruud: 253-597-8441, @candiceruud

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