Online tool tracks response to homeless encampments

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A feature on the city’s website allows people to see where homeless encampments have been reported and what action the city has taken. Allyson Griffith with the city’s Neighborhood and Community Services gave a presentation on the topic to Tacoma City Council on July 10.

For complaints of camps on private property, the city will work with the property owner to have the nuisance abated. Assistance can include no trespass orders and advice on altering the property to deter criminal activity. Some reported activity turns out not to be the result of the homeless. For example, Griffith said a report about a camper was checked out. No one was living in the camper, as it was just being used for storage.

On public property, the city will send its homeless outreach team to the location. A variety of tactics can be used to keep trespassers out. She showed a photo of a bridge with a fence installed underneath it. Sometimes items belonging to homeless people are removed. These are taken to the stability site for the homeless on Puyallup Avenue.

Information related to 311 phone calls about encampments has been updated twice a week since the beginning of the year. Code compliance results and encampment cleanups are added to it as they occur.

The city has three meetings planned for the public to learn more about this website feature. The first will be on July 16 from 11 a.m. to noon in room 16 of Tacoma Municipal Building North. The second will be on July 23 from 5:30-6:30 p.m. at the same location. The last will be July 25 from 6-7 p.m. at the Moore Library, 215 S. 56th St. 

Griffith said feedback from the public has been used to improve this website feature. Councilmember Lillian Hunter suggested using churches and Associated Ministries to spread the word about it. She noted that they often have outreach with the homeless. “Let us not forget the value that our faith-based community brings,” she remarked.

The interactive mapping tool can be found at cityoftacoma.org/encampments.

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