Confronting camps: City of Redding looks for solutions to growing homeless camps

The Redding City Council will evaluate their options for enforcing unlawful camping ordinances Tuesday following a court ruling that left city leaders feeling like their hands were tied.

According to the City Council agenda, council members will consider altering city ordinances to better allow police officers to cite transients and clear camps. Enforcement became an issue for the city following a court ruling in Boise, Idaho that found citing people for camping when shelters were over capacity violated the constitution. A federal judge found anti-camping ordinances qualified as cruel and unusual punishment when other shelter was not available.

The first proposed change would alter the definition of public property to include specific locations where camping wouldn't be allowed. Barry DeWalt, Redding City Attorney, is recommending the city include terms such as open space and parking structure to the camping ordinance. In his report to the council DeWalt argues the change in language will provide the public with more clear notice about what is not allowed at these sites.

The second proposed change targets fires used by transients to cook or keep themselves warm. The Redding fire code allows for fires for cooking or warming without a permit, however, DeWalt explained the Redding Fire Department has interpreted that rule as applying to private property. DeWalt is recommending adding clarifying language to the fire code to make that distinction more explicit. It would also clarify the definition of unsafe to include likelihood of potential spread.

The ordinances would only apply in the event there is available shelter and would not apply to private property.

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