Everett’s local government said there are nearly 200 people experiencing homelessness in the city, and that number has risen since 2016
On Tuesday, Everett, Washington, a city 30 miles north of Seattle passed a controversial local ordinance that will bar people from sitting or lying down in a ten-block swath of the city.
The ordinance passed in the Everett City Council 5 to one. It covers a section of the city’s industrial area. Violators will either face a $500 fine or 90 days in jail when it comes into effect.
Everett’s population of homeless people has grown in recent years, according to local news station KING-TV. And an encampment was set up along the street of the Everett Gospel Mission, a homeless shelter. Everett’s local government said there are nearly 200 people experiencing homelessness in the city, and that number has risen since 2016.
Penelope Protheroe, the director of local nonprofit Angel Resource Connection, told The Daily Herald that Everett’s homeless population will be hurt by the ordinance.
I consider it like a trap zone for people who go and get meals twice-a-day from the mission, she said. It’s like, ‘Here is your food, come and get it. I know you’re hungry, but you can’t sit down or take a load off.’
Before the ordinance was voted on, local officials called for 20 “pallet houses,” to be built behind the Mission in order to house 30 people.
The ordinance, which critics say criminalizes and discriminates against homeless individuals, will go into effect after the houses are built.
Councilmember Liz Vogeli, the sole opposition vote, said: Arson is a crime, property damage is a crime. I don’t think sitting and lying down is a crime, nor do I think that it is a good idea to create it as a crime.
According to the Daily Herald, the tiny homes project will cost nearly $1 million dollars and will be funded by a state grant and tax dollars. The Mission will be responsible for operating and providing for the project, with city assistance.
The ordinance was supported by the majority of city council members, Everett’s mayor, and the business community in the 10 block area. The Herald reported that Everett city officials said the city spends $100,000 a year on street clean-up in areas with encampments.
There is no perfect solution to addressing homelessness in our community, but every incremental step can make a difference, Everett Mayor Cassie Franklin said after the vote. Tonight’s action allows us to move forward with an opportunity we have right now – one which will provide new stability, support, and shelter to up to 30 more people.
According to the Daily Herald, before the vote, the American Civil Liberties Union and National Homelessness Law Center asked the city to rethink the legislation, arguing that it is a violation of the US constitution and the Eighth Amendment ban on cruel and unusual punishment.
Following a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decision in Martin v. City of Boise, a judge ruled that a no-sit and no-lie ordinance is legal should it be written with a defined and limited scope and timeframe, for example, if alternative services and lodging are offered. Everett city officials told the Herald that as the ordinance goes into effect, they are confident of withstanding legal challenges.
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