Seattle's new homeless camp rules labeled as a 'distraction'

The City of Seattle has rules about when homeless camps can be cleared out (called the Multi-Departmental Administrative Rules). But since they’re nearly a decade old, city and community leaders have called for an update.

The city’s finance department is proposing changes to the homeless encampment rules, and asks for the public’s input until Feb. 15.

Under the proposal, outreach workers would need to offer homeless people another shelter option before making them move.

So far homeless advocates say the city's plan doesn't do enough to support the homeless. Attorney Yurij Rudensky with Columbia Legal Services says it's an improvement, but was hoping for more.

Rudensky: "The types of services that the city has to offer includes housing but can stop well short of it. And what we were hoping to accomplish was to really move people into permanent housing, which is a lasting exit off the streets."


Also, the city isn't required to connect people to shelters if they are already banned from the city's shelters because of behavioral problems. Rudensky says those are some of the most vulnerable people.

The Neighborhood Safety Alliance, a group opposed to safe consumption sites and RV camping lots, is also unhappy with the city proposal. The group calls it "a distraction" from working to get people housed.

Among the other proposed changes by the city:

  • The city would need to tell homeless people the exact date their camp would be cleared.
  • Crews would be required to return personal belongings to homeless people after a camp sweep (items like pallets would not be included).
  • Certain areas would be deemed permanently off-limits to camping, and could be fenced to keep people out.

The encampment rules were developed by the Department of Finance and Administrative Services, which will finalize the rules after public comment. The Seattle Mayor's office says it will provide a comment after the public input period.


Meanwhile, the ACLU has sued the city on behalf of homeless people who say their personal items have been destroyed during homeless sweeps.

Paige Browning can be reached at or @paigebpaige_.