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Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions on the Emergency Temporary Aid and Shelter Plan

(As of June 6, 2017)

 

What is the Declaration of a State of Public Health Emergency?

For the purpose of the State of Public Health Emergency Declaration, the City of Tacoma defines “public health emergency” as the risk to the health and safety of the occupants of homeless encampments in Tacoma, including families and unaccompanied youth, and the general public at large.

 

The risk to the health and safety of these groups and the general public at large is increasing due to the high concentration of individuals occupying these encampments. Conditions in these encampments endanger public health and safety, and are unsanitary and unsafe living conditions not fit for human habitation created by a lack of adequate and proper access to restrooms, handwashing stations, potable water and other basic human health amenities. 

 

A state of public health emergency allows the City to exercise its local authority to suspend certain regulations to execute an emergency management plan to address conditions in homeless encampments.

What is the Emergency Temporary Aid and Shelter Plan?

The Emergency Temporary Aid and Shelter Plan is a three-phased approach to reduce the impacts of homelessness on residents, businesses and property owners by addressing public health and safety concerns resulting from growing concentrations of people living in encampments in Tacoma.

 

The plan includes: 

  • Mitigation of human suffering by providing access to basic amenities
  • Service outreach
  • Enforcement of laws on public and private property
  • Temporary transition sites with onsite resources
  • Identification of short-term and transitional housing availability in Tacoma and throughout Pierce County

Why is the City of Tacoma undertaking this effort now?

Visible homelessness is growing and is resulting in unsafe human living conditions for people who are living in encampments or in their cars as well as for people who live and work around encampment areas. In response to growing concerns from residents, businesses, property owners and service providers, Mayor Marilyn Strickland and the City Council determined the City needed to explore new approaches to address the public health and safety needs in the community.

Will the plan end homelessness?

No, the plan will not end homelessness in Tacoma. The intent of the Emergency Temporary Aid and Shelter Plan is to reduce the impacts of homelessness on residents, businesses and property owners by addressing public health and safety concerns resulting from growing concentrations of people living in encampments in Tacoma. The plan provides access to basic human amenities like toilets, handwashing stations, drinking water, garbage service and food; and focuses on connecting people experiencing homelessness with existing community services.

Who does the plan serve?

The plan is designed to serve anyone living on the street in Tacoma, but will be focused in geographic areas experiencing high concentrations of homeless encampments.

 

Of the more than 1,300 people who were counted in the 2017 Pierce County Point-In-Time Count, which counts the number of people in the county experiencing homelessness:

  • 14% were households with families
  • 14% were victims of domestic violence
  • 39% were female
  • 10% were veterans
  • 6% were unaccompanied youth

Will the plan serve people from outside Tacoma?

The majority of people experiencing homelessness in Tacoma are from Tacoma and surrounding Pierce County communities. According to the 2017 Pierce County Point-In-Time Count, which counts the number of people in the county experiencing homelessness, almost 80% of people reported they had lived in Pierce County before becoming homeless. The plan does not include criteria based on prior residence at this time.    

What happens if people don’t choose to use the services?

The City cannot compel use of the services offered. The City will enforce laws regarding public and private property to ensure the health and safety of all residents, businesses and property owners. 

If someone is living on my property, what can I do?

If you have someone on your private property call 9-1-1.  To facilitate removal of individuals on private property without consent, property owners can sign and file with the Tacoma Police Department “No Trespass” documents. 

What is the expected duration of the plan?

The plan is temporary. The Declaration of Public Health Emergency, which the Tacoma City Council passed on May 9, 2017 will be in effect for six months. The plan is anticipated to be operational for up to a year to help transition people into more safe and stable housing options.

How much will the plan cost?

City staff is still working on finalizing the plan budget. 

What are Pierce County and neighboring jurisdictions doing to help people experiencing homelessness in their communities?

Tacoma City leaders have started conversations with Pierce County and neighboring jurisdictions about how to provide more services throughout all Pierce County communities. Currently the majority of homeless services are provided in Tacoma, and we know that people experience homelessness in every community. Having services available in the community people belong to can help stabilize them faster and helps increase access to services.

How can I help?

There are several ways to help in the effort.

  • Donate to or volunteer with a homeless service provider.
  • Donate to Metro Parks USDA Free Summer Lunch Program for Children.
  • Contact your state and federal representatives to advocate for more funding for homeless services.
  • Don’t give people experiencing homelessness money.