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Thurston County, Washington

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Community Planning and Economic Development

Emergency Housing Ordinance (Permanent Regulations)

Permanent regulations for permitting homeless encampments are currently being developed. Thurston County has had regulations for permitting homeless encampments since 2010. This proposal considers making currently interim regulations - first approved by the Board in 2019 and renewed since - permanent.  The current interim regulations allow for flexibility in the permitting requirements of homeless encampments at the discretion of the Director, when the Board of County Commissioner's have declared an public health emergency. This item is A-24 - Emergency Housing Ordinance: Permitting Criteria Flexibility (Titles 20, 21, 22, 23) on the Official Development Code Docket for this year.

In Thurston County, the primary factors that cause a person to experience homelessness are largely out of an individual's or family's control. According to the 2019 PIT Census, domestic violence, mental illness, family rejection and physical disability make up 52% of the reasons census takers identified as causes for homelessness. The next highest percentage of factors are economic in nature, with 31% of respondents identifying eviction, job loss, or lack of job skills as the reason for homelessness. Substance use is often anecdotally identified as the leading cause of homelessness, yet according to the PIT census, only 10% of those experiencing homelessness identify substance use as the cause.

The interim regulations, which are being considered for permanent adoption, are one tool to combat homelessness and facilitate quicker permitting of emergency housing. Several other strategies are aimed at prevention and avoidance, emergency response, and accommodation and supports. 



  • The BoCC adopted regulations on 11-22-2022 under Ordinance 16218.


Submit a Comment or Learn More

Submit a Comment on the County's Emergency Homeless Ordinance

Emergency Housing Ordinance (Permanent) Info Sheet

Thurston County Homeless Crisis Response Plan, 2019-2024