King bill seeks to ban homeless camps near schools and child care centers

Sen. King floor speech

Homeless camps wouldn’t be allowed near schools, preschools, child care centers and other early-learning facilities under a bill introduced by Sen. Curtis King, R-Yakima.

Senate Bill 5882 would prohibit cities, towns and counties from permitting sanctioned or unsanctioned homeless tent camps or other encampments within 1,000 feet of a public or private school, or an early-learning facility.

“We have laws in this state that say you can’t have a marijuana store or liquor store within 1,000 feet of a school,” said King. “But there’s no law protecting schools from homeless encampments, either sanctioned or unsanctioned. Homeless camps near schools put students in greater harm than marijuana or alcohol. Why should we allow that to happen? It puts the safety of students and teachers at risk.”

King noted that a few weeks ago, just after the Olympia City Council decided to put a homeless encampment near a school, a homeless man was seen walking through that school.

“What’s been done so far to address the homeless problem hasn’t worked well. But right now, we need to also focus on protecting our children, and placing a homeless camp near a school or preschool puts those children in danger,” said King, explaining that homeless camps are unsanitary and often have used drug needles, and that some people in homeless camps have criminal backgrounds or mental-health problems.

King’s proposal, which has a bipartisan list of co-sponsors, has been referred to the Senate Housing Stability and Affordability Committee for consideration.