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Encampment Cleanups and Site Reclamation

Encampment Overview

Encampments create a public safety concern for people who live in the space, because of the exposure to human waste, drug paraphernalia and/or inclement weather. 


Encampments may be reported to the City through Tacoma FIRST 311. All requests are investigated the City's Homeless Engagement Alternatives Liaison (HEAL) Team who determine the appropriate method for removing active sites.


How Cleanups Work

  1. City staff find or are notified of an encampment site.
  2. The City's Homeless Outreach Team visit the site and determine next steps.
  3. The site is posted with at least 72-hours' notice that the property will be cleaned up and those living in the encampment are offered assistance finding shelter and services.
  4. On the scheduled cleanup day a private contractor or City services will clean up the site to meet Tacoma Municipal Code standards for public health and safety.
  5. Site Reclamation may occur once the site has been cleaned to help prevent the encampment from returning.

Response to Private Property Encampments

The City generally does not perform public encampment cleanups on private property. The City will follow the Tacoma Municipal Code to work with private property owners to ensure encampments are abated.

  • Property owners are responsible for addressing homeless encampments that occur on their property.
  • Code Compliance responds to encampment-related issues on private properties and will follow normal code compliance procedures per the Tacoma Municipal Code.
  • The City offers property owners resources such as No Trespass orders and Crime Prevention through Environmental Design (CPTED) assessments to assist property owners in mitigating future issues.
  • Encampments are generally removed by the property owner, in partnership with Tacoma Police. If they do not correct the issue on their own, the City may abate the encampment at the expense of the property owner.

Response to Encampments on Other Public Property

The City generally does not perform encampment cleanups on non-City owned public property.

  • If the City receives a complaint of an encampment on non-City owned public property, (WSDOT, Tacoma Schools, Sound Transit) the property owner is notified of the issue by City staff.
  • Tacoma residents concerned with an unauthorized encampment on a non- City owned public property are encouraged to contact the property owner directly to learn about their response plan.

Encampment Removal

The City of Tacoma inspects and removes unauthorized encampments on a routine basis based on complaints received and the conditions of the encampment.


Encampment removal is performed after notice and outreach. In accordance with the City of Tacoma Encampment Removal Policy, the map below shows information about specific removals including dates, location and whether items were stored. 


If items were stored, they will be kept at 1421 Puyallup Avenue (unless the owner of the items is otherwise notified) and an appointment to access items may be made by calling 3-1-1 and indicating that you with to retrieve stored items. 


Site Reclamation

Site Reclamation is the process of making public and private spaces safer and more welcoming for people who live or work in the area to be, while discouraging criminal activity and loitering.


Site Reclamation is used in conjunction with community outreach and service delivery to help individuals and families who are experiencing homelessness get settled into more permanent housing options, as well as using it to reduce blight and increase public health and safety.


Encampment Response Map

Detailed information about the City's response to reported encampments can be found using the Encampment Response Map. Information on the map includes resident concerns reported though 3-1-1, code compliance results of private property inspections, encampment cleanups performed by the City, and site reclamation interventions.


View the Encampment Response Map


Challenges to this Work

According to the most recent Pierce County Point-in-Time Count, the number of homeless individuals exceeds the number of locally available shelter beds. Finding immediate shelter options for people being displaced from encampments continues to be an ongoing challenge.


It is common for encampments to re-populate or move to a nearby location after the City has conducted a cleanup. It is not unlawful for individuals to be homeless in public places, except in limited and specific circumstances.


Glossary of Terms

  • Authorized Encampment – Temporary homeless encampments that are sanctioned under Ordinance No. 28460, which requires them to be located on property that is owned by the City, faith based organizations or non-profits, are permitted and provide basic human amenities for a specific amount for time.
  • Basic Human Amenities – Amenities include portable toilets, waste receptacles, potable water and handwashing stations.
  • Chronically Homeless – Federal definition which defines a chronically homeless person as “either (1) an unaccompanied homeless individual with a disabling condition who has been continuously homeless for a year or more, OR (2) an unaccompanied individual with a disabling condition who has had at least four episodes of homelessness in the past three years.”
  • Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) - Provides guidelines for property owners to use to lower or prevent environmental factors from creating an opportunity for crime.
  • Emergency Shelter – The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development defines emergency shelter as “any facility, the primary purpose of which is to provide temporary or transitional shelter for the homeless in general or for specific populations of the homeless.”
  • Emphasis Area – A geographic zone that is routinely patrolled to prevent health and safety concerns related to encampment activity.
  • Encampment Cleanup – The removal of debris and waste created by people living outdoors on public or private property and the reclamation of the site.
  • HOT – Homelessness Outreach Team, which is a cross function team of Tacoma Police Officers, EMS personnel, mental health providers and outreach staff who work with people experiencing homelessness to connect them with services while also enforcing laws.
  • Mitigation – Alleviating and/or reducing the health and safety impacts on people living in encampments and those who live or work in surrounding areas.
  • People Experiencing Homelessness - The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development defines people experiencing homelessness as “an individual who lacks a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence; as well an individual who has a primary nighttime residence that is a supervised publicly or privately operated shelter designed to provide temporary living accommodations, an institution that provides a temporary residence for individuals intended to be institutionalized; or a public or private place not designed for, or ordinarily used as, a regular sleeping accommodation for human beings.”
  • Short-Term Transitional Housing – Housing options for people who have been experiencing homelessness that provides stable housing while they receive services to find permanent housing solutions.
  • Site Activation – The process of making public spaces more dynamic and engaging for the surrounding to community.
  • Site Monitoring – Patrolling of reclaimed public spaces to prevent health and safety concerns related to encampment activity.
  • Site Reclamation - The process of making public and private spaces safer and more welcoming for people who live or work in the area to be, while discouraging criminal activity and loitering.
  • Unaccompanied minors – People ages 12-17 who do not have a parent or guardian with them.
  • Unauthorized Encampment – Homeless camps on public or private property that do not meet requirements under Ordinance No. 28460.