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With biz tax to become law, city says they can't force street campers to accept services

The city plans on spending millions on housing and overnight shelters, but the city can't force people into them. (KOMO News)

SEATTLE -- Seattle's tax on big businesses will soon become law.

The city plans on spending millions on housing and overnight shelters, but they can't force people into them.

So how will the city deal with street campers who refuse their help?

According to a city spokesperson, the police or city workers cannot compel street campers to accept shelter services, and the city has a vague policy on ticketing people who camp illegally.

Melissa Burns has refused an overnight shelter because she feels safer on the street.

"We can provide better for ourselves at this point than the city can provide for us," she said.

Thomas Bolander and his partner have been offered overnight shelter.

"Due to the whole violence and safety risk in downtown Seattle, I don't feel comfortable separated from her. I would just rather stay in our van that we've been in together," he said.

Matt Jensen rather stay in a growing tent city in front of Real Change, the newspaper covering homeless causes.

"I like outside, I don't like rules so I chose to be outside instead of inside," Jensen said.

Director of Real Change, Tim Harris, said they've been running the paper for 24 years and have never had anything happen like this before.

"Having this encampment right on our doorstep that continues to grow isn't working for anybody," Harris said.

Will Lemke, the spokesman for Seattle's homeless response, said that the city cannot force someone to take them up on services and shelter.

So if they refuse shelter?

"We'll just come and find them again, and try and work with them to get the best match and ultimately get them inside," Lemke said.

Most camps will get cleared but street campers like Jensen say they'll pitch their tent someplace else. Although, Jensen said he would move inside if he was paid to do so.



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