City and county governments in Washington will lose some ability to restrict church-hosted homeless encampments under a bill that passed 56-42 Friday in the House of Representatives.
OLYMPIA — City and county governments in Washington will lose some ability to restrict church-hosted homeless encampments under a bill that passed 56-42 Friday in the House of Representatives.
The measure guarantees churches will be able to host encampments for at least eight months a year, though local governments can bar the camps from lasting longer. Towns, cities and counties could limit the camps to lasting four months at a time, and require a buffer of up to three months between each encampment.
“It respects our religious institutions … that need, and must, and through history have been able to provide sanctuary for those in need,” said the bill’s lead sponsor, Rep. Joan McBride, D-Kirkland.
The bill follows several years of local governments making laws, thereby creating an uneven legal landscape for the “tent cities” of homeless. There are six such encampments in King County, and Seattle Mayor Ed Murray this year proposed hosting three new one-year encampments for up to 100 people on city land.
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Other places have tried to establish restrictions citing health and safety, though the state Supreme Court ruled in 2009 that Woodinville obstructed a church’s freedom of religion when it refused to consider an application to host a camp.
The measure now heads to the Senate for consideration.