<em>A homeless camp in Wilderness Park is pictured. 	 	 </em>Elizabeth Stafford/Courtesy photo

A homeless camp in Wilderness Park is pictured. Elizabeth Stafford/Courtesy photo

Poulsbo’s anti-homeless camping laws could be unconstitutional

A recent ruling by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned an Idaho district court ruling that banned sleeping in public spaces. The ruling will likely have an effect on Poulsbo’s municipal code in the days ahead.

Poulsbo Mayor Becky Erickson raised the issue during a city council meeting on Wednesday.

“This morning, I heard about a ruling for the 9th Circuit Court, federal government, saying effectively that a lot of our camping ordinances — the ways that we deal with people that are homeless — is in fact not appropriate and not correct,” the mayor said. “I immediately contacted the city attorney. He said, ‘Yes, that is absolutely the case. We’re going to have to redraft our camping ordinance.’

“I am not sure of the particulars of it, but what I heard is the reason why is we have to have better accommodations to provide services for homeless populations, and they cannot be religiously based,” she added.

In June, the mayor drew both criticism and praise after cleaning up an apparent homeless encampment in Poulsbo’s Wilderness Park after photos were posted to the North Kitsap Community Facebook Group.

Following the incident, Erickson referred to Poulsbo Municipal Code which expressly prohibits camping in all city parks.

“Our urban parks are not equipped for overnight camping, and the city of Poulsbo made that decision way before I got into public office,” Erickson said. While camping was prohibited, the mayor said, the locations had been monitored in an attempt to make contact with those who had been using the site.

“We were kind of watching for a while. We didn’t see anybody using the camp, so it’s hard to reach out when there’s nobody there.”

—Nick Twietmeyer is a reporter with Kitsap News Group. Nick can be reached at ntwietmeyer@soundpublishing.com

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