Lawmaker to seek state bill to crack down on homeless camps

State Sen. Mark Miloscia will push legislation next year to crack down on homeless encampments and punish local governments that do not enforce regulations on encampments.

Miloscia, a Federal Way Republican who is running for state auditor, would bar local governments from setting guidelines on encampments more lenient than state standards and would sanction local governments that fail to act on unauthorized encampments.

Local governments that do not enforce the standards would face a loss of state funding, although Miloscia did not specify what source of funding.

The proposal aims to push back against a proposal being considered by the Seattle City Council — and favored by civil-rights groups— that would make it more difficult for the city to evict campers from unauthorized encampments.

“Seattle, frankly, needs adult supervision,” Miloscia said. “I will prevent the city from enacting many of the programs considered.”

He said he would introduce legislation in December and, if he is elected auditor, conduct audits on homeless programs to make sure they are effective.

His opponent in the auditor’s race, Pierce County Executive Pat McCarthy, said she would work to make sure tax dollars are spent wisely, but that “it is disingenuous to think a performance audit alone can solve this crisis.”

Miloscia unveiled his proposal Tuesday in Seattle’s Belltown neighborhood, as two men slept in the plaza behind him.

He said his plan would bar camping on sidewalks, public rights of way, school grounds and highway overpasses.

In Seattle, it is illegal to block a sidewalk, but not to sleep on one at night. Camping is already prohibited in Seattle parks, and it is generally prohibited to be on school grounds without permission, which would also prohibit camping there.

Miloscia repeatedly cited Walter Burton, a 19-year-old homeless man who was hit and killed by a car Monday as he slept in a tent in a greenbelt off Interstate 5 in Seattle’s University District.

“How many people have died in Seattle this year; does anyone even know?” Miloscia said. “The city has to provide for sanctioned encampments with citizen involvement.”

He was joined Tuesday by representatives of neighborhood groups in strong opposition to the City Council’s proposal, which would require a 30-day notice to residents before most unauthorized encampments could be cleared.

For unauthorized encampments in “unsafe or unsuitable” locations, the city could evict campers with just two days’ notice but would have to offer residents a new location to which to move.

“I am appealing to the City Council, please drop the bill,” said Lawrence Pang of the Chinatown International District group Seniors in Action. “This will only encourage them to camp and stay in the tents.”

Miloscia would also bar local governments from authorizing safe drug-use sites — intended to reduce overdose deaths and the spread of diseases like HIV and hepatitis — an idea under consideration in Seattle and one endorsed by the city and county’s Heroin Task Force.

In 2005, Miloscia, then a Democrat in the state House, was a sponsor of legislation that created an interagency committee on homelessness and mandated that each county write 10-year plans to address homelessness.

He ran as a Democrat for auditor in 2012, coming in fourth in the primary, before switching parties in 2014 to run for Senate.

In March, Miloscia accused Seattle and King County governments of “incompetence and denial of reality” with regard to the homelessness crisis. In an Op-Ed in The Seattle Times, he wrote that government enables homelessness, drug abuse and panhandling and must begin holding people accountable.

That prompted a response from the leadership of All Home, the coalition that oversees homelessness in King County, assailing Miloscia and blaming the Legislature for underfunding the homelessness crisis.

credit: Seattle Times

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