City Ordinance on Unauthorized Camping

We hope this newsletter finds you in good health and high spirits. Today, we want to share  a significant development directly affecting our community, particularly those experiencing homelessness and many other Bremerton community members. City Ordinance No. 5482, recently passed in the City of Bremerton, Washington, and it has brought about significant changes that have garnered considerable attention and concern.

Understanding City Ordinance No. 5482: Restricting Unauthorized Camping

City Ordinance No. 5482 is an update to Chapter 9.32 in the Bremerton City Municipal Code, which is aimed at addressing unauthorized camping within the city limits of Bremerton. While it is essential to maintain the cleanliness and safety of public spaces, it is equally important to balance the needs and rights of all community members. This ordinance seeks to strike that balance by providing guidelines for where camping in public is permissible, only if there are no available shelter beds.

Impact on the Homeless Community

The new City Ordinance No. 5482 has raised concerns about its impact on individuals experiencing homelessness in our community. In the September 20th City Council meeting, the Council emphasized that this ordinance intends not to criminalize homelessness but rather to establish rules that allow for the coexistence of different community needs. “We’re making sure that it’s not illegal to exist any place. That folks have a place they can go,” said City Council President Jefff Coughlin.

People living on the streets in Bremerton are concerned about safety, access to resources, and what housing options are even available. According to the city, “there was a 34% increase in unsheltered people in the past year” (Komo News). Additionally, the closure of Salvation Army’s emergency shelter in April of this year forced many back out on the street. With an increase in homelessness and not enough shelter space, there is a valid concern of safety and accessibility.

Community Perspectives

In over two hours of public comment we heard from all sides…..

One homeowner who lives on MLK Way, the location of one of the largest encampments in Bremerton, told a story of how she found needles in her yard and feces on her front doorstep. She had concerns about her own safety and the safety of her family, especially being in such close proximity to an encampment.

“We’re not including mentally ill people in this conversation,” said another member of the community. “Before we start making accusations at people who are mentally ill and people who are using drugs, we have to be considerate. There aren’t good mental health services in this county.”

Dawn Wilson, a member of community organization Rock the Block, spoke up about her experience helping others through the movement. She has helped 16 people so far by taking them to treatment facilities to detox. Dawn spoke of the situation, saying “Hope is contagious. […] I want to make it clear that, when we’re down there rockin’ the block, we are walking the block, and getting people off the block.” One man in particular reached out after getting clean to walk the block, and his story inspired and motivated several others to seek help and get treatment.

How You Can Help

As a local food bank, we remain committed to our mission of alleviating hunger in our community. We recognize that this ordinance may pose challenges for some of our clients, and we are here to support them during these times of transition. You can make a difference by…

  1. Monetary donations: Your continued donations help us purchase food items wholesale to ensure we can meet the increased demand for our services during this period of change.
  2. Volunteering: We always need dedicated volunteers to help us distribute food, organize our pantry, and assist with our programs.
  3. Advocating for Comprehensive Solutions: Stay informed about local policies and discuss homelessness in our community. Advocate for comprehensive solutions that address the root causes of homelessness.

In Conclusion

At the Bremerton Foodline, we support all efforts to house and feed people who are living on the street. We have seen every side of the situation, and know how difficult it is for people who are unhoused, businesses, homeowners, and even fellow community members like ourselves. This is a very complicated community crisis with limited solutions.

City Ordinance No. 5482 may be a significant development in our city, but it should be within our collective commitment to having compassion, understanding, and support for those in need. We should take a look at communities like those in Walla Walla, King County, and Everett which have had success with strict codes of conduct and providing resources, as a guideline for developing a solution.

It is crucial to remember that our city government is actively working on comprehensively addressing homelessness. This ordinance is just one piece of a larger strategy aimed at helping individuals find stability and access to the resources they require. Let us work together towards building a community where everyone can access stable housing, nutritious food, and the opportunity for a better future.

Thank you for your continued support. Together, we can make a positive impact in the lives of our neighbors in need.

Further Reading