Council modifies rules for homeless camping visibility

Too often, the first indication Auburn’s homelessness outreach workers get that an unhoused person has died in a tent or shelter on city property is the stench of rot.

Had the workers been able to peer inside to check on the person’s condition beforehand to determine if they had overdosed or were otherwise incapacitated, Homeless Outreach Coordinator Kent Hay recently told the Auburn City Council, they may have been able to provide Narcan or other assistance to save their lives.

On March 18, the Auburn City Council extended visibility rules that already apply to tents and shelters in Auburn’s parks to like structures on city-owned properties outside of parks to save lives.

The upshot is that from now on, it will be illegal for anyone to set up, maintain and use tents or shelters on all city-owned properties unless there is an unobstructed view through the shelter from at least two sides.

When Hay first presented the new rules to city leaders on Feb. 26, he illustrated the need by relating the sad ending of the life of homeless man folks called Bill. As no one had seen Bill for a while, members of Auburn’s Homeless Outreach Team hit the streets to find him and check on his welfare.

Drawn to objects on a corner near the A Street on-ramp to Highway 18, one member of the crew pushed aside a bit of covering to see what was underneath.

And found “Bill” dead from an overdose.

“Without moving things aside, we would never have known he was there, and who knows how long he’d been dead there,” Hay told the council in February.