BELLINGHAM, Wash. - A homeless encampment has been cleared from a Bellingham park for the second time this week.
It's the third time since late January that the city has removed this same group of campers from a public space.
Crews arrived at Laurel Park Friday morning to take down tents and belongings, despite housing advocates showing up to protest their removal. The latest encampment popped up after the city forced them to leave the Frank Geri softball fields Tuesday.
"I love these people. I love this city, and I want to see that people who live here can be comfortable in any way they choose to live, even if it is outdoors," said Eric Bellweber, a "guard" at the camp.
City leaders are struggling to find a solution: they have offered shelter, but ultimately they "can't tell people where to go," Bellingham Public Works Director Eric Johnston said.
"There is capacity at that shelter today. And at that shelter services are available for homeless populations," Johnston said.
Campers and housing advocates counter that temporary shelters are not the solution, especially during the pandemic.
The city is now threatening to fine campers for trespassing in city parks.
Mayor Seth Fleetwood said during a council meeting Monday night that the sites have become a health and safety hazard.
The City Council is moving forward with a one-tenth of 1% sales tax to fund more low-income housing and mental-health services. They took the first step to approving it at a council meeting Monday night, The Bellingham Herald reported.
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