Don’t criminalize homeless people

OlympiaDecember 25, 2012 

I strongly oppose the no-camping ordinances by the Olympia City Council. There is a shortage of affordable housing in Olympia. Banning camping near City Hall and on all city property will create further hardships for homeless people. It criminalizes people for being homeless rather than making available more affordable housing and other social services.

What is wrong with camping out on city property? If there is a problem with urination, Olympia should provide free bathrooms rather than preventing camping and sleeping outside. It should open City Hall as a place to sleep at night. People can be charged with a crime if they assault someone but because a middle-class resident feels unsafe or uncomfortable near a homeless or street person is not a reason to make camping or sleeping outside illegal or to further restrict sitting on the sidewalk.

The mayor and City Council are supposed to represent all people in Olympia, including homeless people. The City Council proposal doesn’t do that nor does it represent those in Olympia who believe housing is a right, and people should not be criminalized or forced out of Olympia because they are homeless.

It is good the City Council voted to end the no-busking ordinance but that is not enough. I urge the City Council and Mayor Stephen Buxbaum to reconsider their position on the no-camping laws, to reject them and not further restrict camping, sleeping outside or in one’s car. And not limit sitting on the sidewalk.

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