Monroe churches can now host temporary homeless tent cities
MONROE — Religious organizations can now host temporary spaces for homeless people to camp in Monroe, a change that aligns city law with state law.
The ordinance allows “temporary shelters that are quickly erected and can be quickly taken down,” city planning director Ben Swanson said. But, the city “has not received an application for a homeless encampment” as of late last month.
A church’s concept to erect a tiny house village wouldn’t classify as a temporary encampment. New Hope Fellowship Church on west Main Street, which hosts the city’s Cold Weather Shelter, gained media attention this spring over an
idea to give homeless people temporary shelter, however the pastor at New Hope, Rob Jansons, said by email earlier this month that this plan is shelved for now.
“Our main problem is not the city of Monroe, but the fact that our property is surrounded by schools, preschools, a day care center, and a family counseling center. All of these factors make it unlikely that we will pursue this on our property,” Jansons wrote. “However, we are pursuing the idea of starting a men’s shelter in Monroe, hoping to house men who are on the road to self-sufficiency.”
In 2010, the state changed the rules to give religious organizations more latitude if they choose to host visitors in a temporary encampment. It also gives cities immunity from liability for any conduct or unlawful activity at an encampment. A religious organization offering a site must carry insurance and keep a list of visitors.
The permit for each encampment must be renewed annually. When an encampment is proposed, people living within 500 feet will be invited to attend a public meeting seven days before the camp opens to hear information about its operations, learn the camp’s regulations for occupants and to ask questions.
City officials plan to add homeless shelters to a forthcoming update of the city’s affordable housing zoning code, which should be finished later this year.
The city’s restrictions on encampments include a ban on open flames, and restrictions on population density, allowing for one camp visitor per 400 square feet, with a cap of 100 people per encampment, regardless of the size of the parcel.
The City Council unanimously passed an ordinance changing the city laws on Tuesday, July 23, and the ordinance took effect immediately upon approval.
In the last Point In Time (PIT) snapshot count of homelessness, just under 60 homeless people were interviewed by volunteers, and of that group, 26 said their last permanent residence was along the highway corridor.
The count provides data to assess homelessness in Snohomish County, as measured in a single day on January every year. The PIT reports are required by federal and state agencies.
In Monroe, 11.2 percent of the city’s 19,343 residents live below the poverty line, which is similar to state averages. For one person, that is defined as $12,490 annually; for a family of four, it is $25,750.
The median household income in Monroe is $74,093, according to 2018 Census data.
Resource providers available for people in
transition to permanent housing
• Beck’s Place: Foster boarding for pets while families work to achieve stability. Call 425-419-8992, becksplace.org
• Cocoon House: Outreach for homeless and at-risk youth. Call
425-259-5802, email firstname.lastname@example.org, cocoonhouse.org
• Housing Hope: Shelter assistance for emergency and affordable and long-term needs. Call 425-347-6556, housinghope.org
• Monroe Women’s Gospel Mission: Temporary emergency shelter including domestic violence situations and those living in unfit sheltering situations. Call 360-863-9003, monroegospelmission.com
• Take the Next Step: Drop-in center open Monday, Wednesday, Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 202 S. Sams St., Monroe; or by appointment Tuesday and Thursday. Call 360-794-1022, ttns.org
• Snohomish Health District, countywide: 425-339-5200,
• Sky Valley Resource Guide: www.ttns.org/resource for help with all necessary resources for people in-transition.
• Volunteers of America: call 211 or 800-223-8145 for referral to individualized assistance or receive crisis help. www.voaww.org
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