EVERETT, Wash. - The Everett City Council voted Wednesday on a controversial ordinance that will ban sitting or lying in a 10-block area of the city.
The proposal targets the homeless population who gather under and around the I-5 overpass on Smith Avenue, prompting complaints from business owners about trash and crime.
One business owner told the council she supports the ordinance because she needs "some kind of indication from the city that they will not just let us all fail down here."
"That as they grapple with the best ways to help the homeless population, they remember that we have needs and rights, too, that the next big drama will not be something truly tragic that we can't come back from, a major fire, a major injury, or all of us going out of business as our customers lose faith in the safety of the neighborhood." the business owner said during the council's virtual meeting.
City officials have tried to keep people experiencing homelessness out of the area by fencing it off, but that hasn't worked.
The ban has been discussed in Everett for years, but the threat of lawsuits has largely stopped the ordinance from moving forward.
City officials had the votes to pass it this time, but they still face opposition from nonprofits and affordable housing advocates who say it's unfair for people who are struggling.
The city is still likely to face litigation following the vote.
"We really think it's inhumane and unjust for the homeless ... they deserve better," said Penelope Protheroe with the nonprofit Angel Resource Center. "They're already suffering. It's miserable being homeless ... to add this to it is really kicking them when they're down."
The city is also working to build about 20 tiny homes in the neighborhood to house a few dozen people experiencing homelessness. The ordinance will not take effect until those houses are complete.
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