Newport designates parking spaces for homeless camping

A sign erected Monday, one of three in the city of Newport’s parking lot on Ninth and Hurbert streets, denotes a space where homeless people are allowed to camp overnight in their vehicles. (Photo by Jeremy Burke)

NEWPORT — The city of Newport has made three spaces available in a publicly owned lot for car camping by homeless individuals, utilizing amendments made to the municipal code last year and fulfilling a recommendation of its 2019 Homelessness Task Force.

The Newport City Council passed Ordinance 2170 on Sept. 21, 2020, which amended city code to allow commercial and industrial properties, religious institutions and places of worship, and public entities to offer overnight vehicle parking to homeless people, with a limitation of three such spaces per property.

The spaces must be provided free of charge, and vehicles must be 10 feet apart, with all personal property stored in vehicles or a separate storage area out of public view. Sanitary services must be provided, including toilet facilities, hand washing and trash disposal, which must be located at least 20 feet away from a residential property line.

The spots became available Monday and are located in the city parking lot between Ninth and 10th streets on Hurbert Street. The three spaces face 10th Street, marked with signs that read “Car camping permitted for homeless individuals this space only.” There’s a portable toilet on site, installed last Friday next to the brick-and-mortar bathroom facility at the lot (which is only open during the day).

The ordinance allowing car camping grew from a report by the city’s Homelessness Taskforce, which was established by the council in November 2018 and met four times during a six-month-period the first half of 2019. The task force identified 15 strategies for expanding services for the unhoused and presented recommendations to city council in July 2019, one of which was that the city identify areas where homeless individuals can camp overnight in their vehicles. Council adopted the recommendations and prioritized car camping as “tier one,” to be acted upon in 2019-20.

The publicly owned lot on Hurbert Street is the first to operate under the ordinance since it passed last September. City Recorder Peggy Hawker said the city reached out to 47 faith-based facilities in November, but none were in a position to provide camping spaces. She said the city welcomes inquiries from commercial and industrial property owners who might have locations suited to the purpose. If interested, they should contact [email protected] An inspection is required to ensure the ordinance’s provisions are met.

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