A new ordinance, making camping on city property a fineable offense, takes effect in North Bend next week. The ordinance, enacting the new Chapter 9.60 of North Bend Municipal Code, specifically refers to issues with homeless encampments, such as trash, human waste and discarded hypodermic needles.
Its adoption comes just weeks after an independent citizens group opened an emergency winter shelter for the homeless.
The new code prohibits sleeping in public places and, following amendments proposed by Councilman Ross Loudenback, it also prohibits starting fires on public property outside of specifically designated areas like park fire pits.
Loudenback supported the new ordinance, saying “We have all been at the work-studies and we’ve discussed this issue.”
Issues with the homeless have been the subject of several council discussions over the past year, City Administrator Londi Lindell reminded the council. She also told them the new code was compatible with their goals for public properties.
“It’s really to give us all the tools you need to make sure your parks are safe,” she said.
Under the new code, which takes effect Jan. 28, camping on any publicly owned land will be a criminal offense, punishable by jail time and a fine up to $1,000. The definition of camping will cover storing personal items and using a vehicle as a residence, as well as sleeping in public places. As proposed, the ordinance will not apply to people sleeping in public places during the day, provided they have not erected some type of structure, nor will it apply to activities authorized with a special events permit, or fires in established park fire pits.
Public places will include parks, sidewalks, streets, alleys, lanes, rights-of-way, and underneath bridges and viaducts. Park hours are dawn to dusk, and violators found in the park outside of those times can be fined $100.
The Snoqualmie Valley Winter Shelter opened on Dec. 22. The shelter, hosted by the North Bend Community Church, 146 East 3rd Street, opens to guests from 8:30 to 10:30 p.m. nightly, and closes by 8 a.m., and will operate through March 7. For more information, visit www.snovalleywintershelter.com, or find them on Facebook.