Seattle Times homelessness reporter Vernal Coleman and Seattle City Hall reporter Daniel Beekman discuss the issues involved.

Share story

City Councilmember Mike O’Brien is reigniting conversations about how Seattle should deal with hundreds of homeless people living in vehicles, Seattle Times homelessness reporter Vernal Coleman explains in Episode 49 of The Overcast.

Mayor Ed Murray’s plan last year to help people in vehicles by opening several “safe lots” for them largely collapsed by the end of 2016. But O’Brien has been working on a new ordinance that could loosen restrictions on where and for how long such people can park – and how to get them into permanent housing.

Supporting the council member are recommendations by a task force he convened in March. But some Seattle residents bothered by vehicle camping are expressing anxiety over the possibility of the city allowing participants in a new program for homeless people to park on public property for longer than 72 hours. A draft of O’Brien’s ordinance leaked this week.

Most Read Stories

Unlimited Digital Access. $1 for 4 weeks.

The emerging debate is reminiscent of a battle last year over unauthorized homeless encampments, when O’Brien introduced an ordinance that would have relaxed restrictions on camping on public property while pushing the city to help them get housing.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Washington and advocates for the rights of people experiencing homelessness backed the idea.

But after Murray and other opponents said the move would lead to more camping and allow tents and trash to overrun parks and other public spaces, the ordinance stalled.

Will there be a different outcome for O’Brien’s vehicle-camping proposal? How are council members talking about how to balance between law enforcement and compassion? Coleman and Seattle City Hall reporter Daniel Beekman discuss.

Subscribe to The Overcast on iTunesTuneIn, Stitcher or via RSS. If you listen on iTunes, please leave us a review there.

Listen to past episodes of The Overcast here, and check out other Seattle Times podcasts here.

Send us your feedback and your ideas for future topics. Leave a comment on this post, tweet at us (@Jim_Brunner and @DBeekman), email seattletimesovercast@gmail.com or leave a voicemail at 206-464-8778.

Please consider supporting independent, local journalism by subscribing to the Seattle Times.