MONROE, Wash. – Data shows the number of homeless people living without shelter in Snohomish County is down from 2017.
Now a new ordinance in the city of Monroe outlaws people from sitting or lying down on public sidewalks. The police department insists the new law doesn’t target the homeless.
Police say the new law is about keeping the sidewalks safe for everybody and business owners believe the problem is bad enough to require the new law.
“We have a beautiful downtown that’s just on the brink of greatness and I think this is going to make a huge difference,” said Kimberley Lynn, whose mortgage office is smack dab in the middle of downtown Monroe.
“We used to have a bench out here that you used to sit on ... but no bench anymore,” she said.
That’s because people kept napping on the bench, she said, outside her storefront; now the problem has moved to her building’s rear entrance.
“Past year and a half, two years definitely, all of the sudden, behind the dumpster, under the stairs,” she said.
Lynn said her employees had to deal with bikes, tarps and other clutter at the office’s rear entrance before the new ordinance went into effect.
“I think it’s going to be a matter of talking to people,” said Monroe Police Department Deputy Chief Ken Ginnard. “We’ve got a community-oriented city. Most people, once you stop and talk to them a little ... understand what it is you’re trying to do (and) comply with it.”
Ginnard said the law isn’t meant to target the homeless but that it’s an effort to keep the sidewalks clear for everyone.
“It’s designed to keep the sidewalks mainly through downtown safe,” said Ginnard.
Police say in the past they dealt with a handful of complaints from business owners about sidewalk sitters.
Business owners like Lynn say it’s an effort to keep businesses growing with positive momentum in small town Monroe.
“We want to grow downtown Monroe and there just really wasn’t that comfortability when you’re seeing that,” said Lynn. “Most people don’t want to walk around, next to homeless people.”
While police haven’t handed out any fines yet, they are steep: It’s a $1,000 citation, which could come with jail time. Police say they will also offer anyone struggling with homelessness a free ride to a shelter.