State agency strikes down portions of Puyallup homeless shelter, drop-in center ordinance

PUYALLUP, Wash. – A state agency has partially ruled against one South Sound community’s attempts to regulate where new homeless centers can operate.

On Monday, the State of Washington Growth Management Hearings Board ruled portions of a recently-passed Puyallup city ordinance not only violates a city law, it also did not designate areas for drop-in centers or shelters with adequate access to public transportation.

“It all really started with a heartbreak, as crazy as that sounds,” said Amber Chavez.

Chavez says she’s only been homeless for a few months and she is living in a tent near the Puyallup River. While she says she is working to get back on her feet, she complains finding help in her home town can be tough.

“If they’re not going to allow us in tents then they have to have somewhere for us to go,” she said.

For now, the only help she can find close by is at the New Hope Resource Center. It’s a place where people who are homeless can get a hot meal, build community and help find services.

But other services in Puyallup can be hard to find.

“I feel more pushed out by the city, you know, the higher ups,” said Chavez. “It’s them that doesn’t want us here.”

Last fall, the city council passed an ordinance that specified where new shelters or drop-in centers be located inside city limits and how they would be required to operate.

But Homeward Bound, which runs New Hope, challenged the ordinance. On Monday, the state Growth Management Hearings Board ruled the ordinance’s city-designated zones did not promote a ‘variety of housing’ for those with special needs, the elderly, disabled or homeless. It also cited access to public transit was an issue with the ordinance.

But, the city of Puyallup said the ruling did not invalidate the ordinance in its entirety.

The city’s attorney told Q13 news in a statement, “The city is still studying the decision and has not yet made a determination on a response.”

“I’ve always felt the law is on our side,” said Homeward Bound board member, Ric Rose.

Rose says his organization fought the city’s ordinance and he believes new shelter and drop-in locations are vital to meet the needs of a growing homeless population inside the city of Puyallup.

While the New Hope location is not impacted by last fall’s ordinance, Rose says expanding services won’t happen without collaboration.

“We’re fighting for our survival,” he said. “So, to think of growing or moving, I don’t see that can happen without the cooperation of the city council and the city staff.”

The city of Puyallup has ten days to decide if it wants to appeal the board’s decision.