Kent City Council considers ordinance to ban camping on public property

Leaders in Kent are at a crossroads after seeing an expansion of roadside homeless camps.

Officials are talking about change to police enforcement and bans, even as the King County Council considers spending millions more on service-centered homeless solutions.

Addressing homelessness near the Green River in Kent has been a focus for several months. However, it’s not the only area where people are sleeping outdoors.

On October 4, the City Council will discuss a proposal to update the current ordinance on illegal camping outside designated camping areas. 

Council president Bill Boyce wrote in a statement: "Enforcement of the unlawful camping provisions under the proposed ordinance will be suspended when there is no available shelter except in particular locations such as: environmentally sensitive areas such as wetlands and shorelines; park areas that are designated for a specified purpose such as picnic shelters and playfields; City rights of way; and City-owned facilities where business is conducted."

The proposed ordinance will be discussed during the city’s Operations and Public Safety Committee afternoon meeting. There will be opportunity for public comment during the regular council meeting that same night. A likely topic of discussion during both sessions will address how homelessness is affecting local businesses.

Pilot program suggests ‘tough love’ for those refusing services at Green River encampment

King County Council Member Reagan Dunn is calling for a "tough love" approach in a pilot project to remove a homeless encampment in King County, and its residents placed into housing, mental, alcohol or drug treatment if necessary.

Neahad Al-Zadya has owned Ishtar Smoke Shop in Kent for two years. Now he said he’s thinking about closing up shop after what he’s had to put up with these past nine months.

"That is not good for the business and for the customer," said Al-Zadya.

He said the area of the city is experiencing issues with homelessness and business owners like him are hurting because of it. Al-Zadya said he installed surveillance cameras to keep an eye one who is coming in and out. He also secured gates to cover the door, windows and surrounding building as protection from vandalism.

"They’ve broken my glass, they’ve broken the door, they’ve broken the gates and I called the police," said Al-Zadya.

Not far from his shop are dozens of campers tucked on the side of the road near the Green River. The concern is there are other spots beginning to show up around the city.

The Kent Chamber of Commerce used social media to encourage business owners to make their presence known by attending the council’s next workshop on October 4 when the proposal will be discussed. Though there won’t be public comment during the workshop, the chambers’ message said, "If you are in support of this initiative, you can attend the workshop, and hear details of the ordinance. We strongly recommend a show of support by attending."

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"I support that, and I hope they will do it as soon as possible," said Al-Zayda.

The chamber also advised its members to attend the regular city council meeting when there is opportunity for public comment. The social media post reads, "It's always a good idea to show up and provide your input during the public comment period. This is opportunity to express your concerns or support of City taking action."