Washington state Department of Commerce officials are pushing back against legislation that would take authority from local governments to sanction homeless encampments, according to a letter obtained by The Seattle Times.
Authorities at the Washington state Department of Commerce are pushing back against a bill that would take authority from local governments to sanction homeless encampments and set statewide guidelines for creating new ones, according to a Feb. 7 letter from department legislative director Xandre Chateaubriand.
Obtained by The Seattle Times on Wednesday, the letter says the department is “very concerned” about provisions in the bill that create additional laws against trespassing on public property and give the Commerce Department the authority to approve or deny new camps. The department coordinates several state homelessness-prevention programs.
“In general Commerce believes local governments are best positioned to make enforcement and encampment decisions that align with their local priorities,” the letter states.
While the state would retain the power to authorize camps, the bill calls for local governments that seek to establish encampments to create enough to accommodate each municipality’s total homeless population. Those that don’t would face a loss of state funding for homelessness-prevention programs.
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Miloscia, a Federal Way Republican, said on Thursday that should the bill pass he will work with Commerce officials on how the guidelines will be implemented.
“We set minimum guidelines for child-care and health-care facilities, but here there’s a vacuum,” he said. “Bottom line is that we need state leadership on this.”
Seattle currently has three authorized homeless encampments, with locations in Ballard, Interbay and Rainier Valley. Seattle Mayor Ed Murray last year announced the city would authorize an additional four camps for the short term as it works to reform its homeless services.
As of Thursday, Miloscia’s bill remained under consideration by the Senate Human Services, Mental Health & Housing Committee.
If no action is taken by the Friday deadline to move bills onto the Senate floor, Miloscia said he plans to draft identical legislation for consideration by the Senate Ways and Means Committee.