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Advocates worry Tacoma isn't ready for its ban on shelters in city parks

Adrian Florez

Tacoma has just over a month until its new law banning tents and shelters in city parks goes into effect. The city council recently passed the controversial ordinance, and some advocates are concerned the city won’t be prepared. 

Greg Walker has watched as the number of encampments around People’s Park has swelled in recent months – now dozens and dozens of tents line the edges of the park in Tacoma’s Hilltop neighborhood. What Walker sees is a community

“This is a group of people who have banded together and are taking care of one another, and are trying to be good neighbors,” Walker said.

Walker lives nearby and works with nonprofits on issues surrounding homelessness. Ideally, he says there would be somewhere other than a park for people to find shelter, but he’s worried that solution will not be ready come December. That’s when the city’s new law — prohibiting temporary shelters — begins.

“That’s going to push them into darker corners,” Walker said. “It’s going to disperse this problem farther into our neighborhoods where it is even more difficult to address.”

Representatives from the city say they’re currently looking for places where people can go once the ban takes effect. Already some churches have offered to add more shelter beds. Another possibility is to establish a sanctioned space — on city or private land — where people can set up tents.

Will Stone is a former reporter at KUNR Public Radio.