Tents and trailers won’t be allowed in Yakima parks as part of a city effort to address homelessness.
The Yakima City Council voted unanimously this week to prohibit tents, lean-tos, shacks, trailers and similar shelters in city parks. Code enforcement will consider any structure with walls a nuisance, subject to enforcement action.
Assistant City Attorney Jeffrey Schaap said enclosed structures have posed a challenge to code enforcement because officers aren’t able to see what’s happening inside the structures and need permission to enter.
Canopies and other temporary structures with only a roof and no walls will be permitted. Bouncy houses for special events will still require special-event permits, Schaap said.
The ordinance followed recent council discussions about how to enforce the city’s no-camping ordinance, which does not permit residents to sleep on city property overnight.
Community members and business leaders have voiced concerns that visible reminders of homelessness — from used needles to trash to feces — in front of their businesses or residences hinder downtown development, present a public health and safety threat, and make some city residents feel unsafe.
Mayor Kathy Coffey declared a homelessness crisis in September. The county’s most recent point-in-time count found at least 509 homeless people living in Yakima, which service providers said likely was an undercount.
The Union Gospel Mission, Camp Hope, Yakima Neighborhood Health Services and Comprehensive Healthcare all work to provide services to people experiencing homelessness who are willing to get help. Measures the city of Yakima has taken in recent months to improve the situation include extending Camp Hope’s lease through 2025, with two-year renewal options through 2029, and using funds retained from sales tax to explore options for increasing affordable housing in the city.
The council also approved the Clean City Project, which will include collaborative enforcement by the Yakima Police Department, the city’s Codes and Public Works departments, and a refuse code enforcement officer. The city also plans to contract with a case manager, with a contract finalized by April.