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Puyallup City Council Member Weighs Quitting Over Homelessness Debate

Courtesy of the City of Puyallup
Puyallup City Council Member Robin Farris

How local officials should address homelessness has proven to be one of the most divisive questions across the Puget Sound region.

Few cities are more divided at the moment than Puyallup, where city leaders are considering a law that would make it harder to open a shelter or drop-in center serving the homeless.

They're backed by a vocal group of residents who view the increasing visibility of homelessness in the city as a quality-of-life problem requiring stepped-up enforcement. 

Debate over the issue has grown so harsh that one City Council member is considering leaving office and even moving away from Puyallup. 

"I don't want to belong to a City Council, I don't want to belong to this community, with this type of division driving the conversation," said Robin Farris, whose family has lived in Puyallup for more than a century.

Farris spoke to KNKX reporter Will James about the debate and how her life experiences, including her recovery from addiction and her 23-year service in the U.S. Navy, informs her views of the homelessness crisis. 

She acknowledged many residents and business owners have been impacted by homelessness. But she said the city needs to change the tenor of the debate. 

"We need to correct, self-correct, this division first," Farris said. "Then we can work on solutions." 

You can listen to that conversation above.

Will James is a former KNKX reporter and was part of the special projects team, reporting and producing podcasts such as Outsiders and The Walk Home.