Moses Lake passes restrictions on daytime homeless camping

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Emry Dinman/Columbia Basin Herald Homeless campers have had tents on the Alder Street Fill for months, becoming one of the most visible signs of the city’s homeless population.

MOSES LAKE - The Moses Lake city council has overwhelmingly voted in favor of restricting the homeless from camping or sleeping in cars on public land during daylight hours.

In a 6-to-1 decision, the city council passed an ordinance restricting the use of sleeping bags, blankets, tents and similar camping “facilities” or “paraphernalia” on public lands between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. The ordinance also restricts sleeping in a vehicle on a public lands, which includes public streets, and the homeless will no longer be able to leave tents or sleeping bags on public property during the day.

Councilmember Ryann Leonard, the sole no vote, said she was concerned about the restrictions on sleeping in vehicles. Ultimately, the only amendment to the proposed ordinance was to get rid of all fines for disobeying the new restrictions, which was made at Leonard’s suggestion.

The ordinance will not restrict sleeping on public property, such as on a sidewalk bench, as long as the individual does not use camping “facilities” or “paraphernalia.”

The decision follows a circuit appeals court decision last year that ruled cities could not restrict the homeless from sleeping on all public lands at all times. The court’s ruling allowed for visible homeless encampments to crop up in public parks and right of ways.

The same circuit appeals court recently declined to revisit that decision in anticipation that the U.S. Supreme Court would soon take it up.

The council had previously banned all nighttime camping between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. in city parks, but that ordinance did not affect campers on non-park public land, such as on the Alder Street Fill.

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