Local nonprofit service providers and staff from several city of Yakima divisions and departments teamed up Wednesday night to reach out to people camping on public property and point them toward safe, temporary housing, regular meals and other services.

A news release from the city says the task force included representatives from Yakima Union Gospel Mission, Transform Yakima Together, Yakima Neighborhood Health Services, and the city’s Code Enforcement Division among others. City officials say it was formed in light of a notable recent increase in spontaneous camping on public property. A Yakima ordinance passed in 2016 prohibits camping on public property.
“Early this morning, the task force went to places where people were camping and let the people staying there know that what they were doing is not allowed in the city,” says Communications & Public Affairs Director Randy Beehler. “People staying in the campsites were offered transportation to either the Yakima Union Gospel Mission or the Transform Yakima Together shelter. The personal belongings of people who accepted the offer are being stored temporarily at the city’s Public Works facility,” says Beehler.
The primary objective of the task force is to ensure the health and safety of people experiencing homelessness and the safety of the general public.
Of the 13 people contacted by the task force Wednesday, eight agreed to be transported to a shelter and five simply vacated campsites. No one was arrested.  A conviction of violating the city’s unlawful camping ordinance can result in a fine of up to $1,000, up to 90 days in jail, or both.
The primary objective of the task force is to ensure the health and safety of people experiencing homelessness and the safety of the general public.