Senate passes legislation to support shelters for those experiencing homelessness

OLYMPIA — The Washington Senate today approved a bill to help local governments provide sanctioned, temporary and transitional shelters.

Sen. Liz Lovelett (D-Anacortes) co-sponsored SB 5946, which would streamline permitting for communities that have declared a state of emergency due to the level of homelessness. Under the bill, a temporary shelter would be exempt from the state Environmental Policy Act while still adhering to local regulations and notices.

“We need to remove barriers to provide safe, dignified sleep spaces for our neighbors," said Lovelett. "Communities need this flexibility to provide emergency services as we respond to the homeless crisis that impacts all of Washington state."

Having passed the Senate 35-12 with strong bipartisan support, the bill now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.

The Point in Time Homeless Count in San Juan County was conducted in January 2019. The number, 149, was 24 percent higher than the 120 homeless counted in 2018.

The count in 2017 was 154 but that included  people living in substandard structures lacking amenities. These populations are now only counted if they are living in an RV or a boat. The state  Department of Commerce changed the definitions between the 2017 and 2018 counts. 

1 comment

  • John Thursday, 07 March 2019 18:41 Comment Link

    We should be careful that what we do for good cause doesn't end up making the situation worse. Making accommodations for the homeless more accessible may not be a good long-term solution. It could attract more homeless from all over the country to come Seattle or the state in general. Tell all your friends, if they know someone in another state who is homeless or a heroin addict, give them a one-way bus ticket to Seattle where they can have access to a safe space to pitch a tent and public access to Narcan at official heroin injection sites and public places like libraries and the YMCA. Ultimately, what the homeless need (at least those who are interested in opportunities to improve their situation) is rehabilitation, skills training, and subsequent gainful employment.


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