This homeless woman says she can’t get the help she needs. ‘I’m not really that far gone.’
Pipsqueaks children’s clothing boutique reopened Friday after a crosstown move motivated by homeless camping at its back door.
The move to near Costco comes just days after the Kennewick City Council took another step in its efforts to crack down on disruptive behavior by some homeless campers.
This week, the city council agreed to ban sitting or lying on sidewalks in trouble spots, including the area behind the store’s former home.
Owner Lisa Steele announced plans to move this summer, citing the bad behavior of some patrons of the Daysprings Ministries soup kitchen at River of Live Metropolitan Community Church behind her business on Vista Way.
The church requires visitors to leave after lunch, which led to some camping on nearby sidewalks and streets.
Steele and her neighbors have complained that their businesses are disrupted by unruly visitors, garbage, human waste and more.
Steele is the first to say it is what motivated her to move from the neighborhood where she launched Pipsqueaks seven years ago.
The city has taken several steps to curb camping in the area. It posted signs advising citizens not to give money to panhandlers. Panhandling itself is protected free speech.
The city also posted notices in the Vista Way neighborhood that personal possessions left in the area would be removed. Items are tagged and stored at the police station if someone wants to retrieve them.
The ordinance approved this week prohibits people from sitting or lying on sidewalks and rights of way between 6 a.m. and midnight in three camping-prone zones:
- Clearwater Avenue to Kennewick Avenue, between Yelm and Huntington streets (Vista Way area)
- 24th to 28th, between Tweedt and Olson streets (near Walmart and Home Depot)
- Canal Drive, between Young and Kellogg streets (near Lawrence Scott Park)
It gives law enforcement officers authority to ask people to move and to charge them with misdemeanors, an arrestable offense, if they refuse.
Kennewick Police Chief Ken Hohenberg has said he doesn’t want to arrest people. He is forming a unit within the department to focus on the root causes of homelessness.
The ordinance is not a blanket ban on using public facilities.
People may sit down if there is a medical emergency, if they are waiting for a bus, if they are physically disabled or under a number of other circumstances.