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 largerly out of an individual's or family's control. Accroding 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 permnanent 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 accomodation and supports. 

Timeline for Emergency Housing Ordinance (considering making interim regs permanent) 

Timeline last updated June 23, 2022. Dates are tentative and subject to change.

  • Summer 2021 - Early 2022 - Internal research, outreach to affected County Departments
  • Summer 2022 - Planning Commission Review, Public Hearing
  • Summer-Fall 2022 - SEPA Determination
  • Fall 2022 - BoCC Review, BoCC Public Hearing, BoCC Final Action
    • * interm regulations expire Dec. 9, 2022 and may be renewed again in Dec. 2022. This will occur through a separate process with its own public hearing.


  • The Planning Commission will hold a public hearing on August 17, 2022 at 7 PM or soon thereafter in Room 280, Building 1 of the Thurston County Courthouse Complex, 2000 Lakeridge Dr. SW, Olympia, WA 98502. View the proposed amendments (PDF). There will also be a virtual component via Zoom. If you cannot attend the public hearing, submit your written comments to Amelia Schwartz no later than 4 PM on Wednesday August 17. If you have questions about the proposed changes, you can ask them through the comment form above or call Leah Davis, project manager, at 360-786-5582.

    Comments may be submitted by email, mail, or provided in-person during the meeting. To mail comments, send to:
    Community Planning and Economic Development Department.
    Attn: Amelia Schwartz, Associate Planner
    2000 Lakeridge Dr. SW, Olympia, WA, 98502

  • The Planning Commission held work sessions on to review this item on November 17, 2021, July 6, 2022, and July 20, 2022. 

  • The BoCC recently amended and renewed interim regulations. View the Interim Emergency Homeless Ordinance

Submit a Comment or Learn More

Submit a Comment on the County's Emergency Homeless Ordinance

Emergency Housing Ordinance (Permanent) Info Sheet (PDF)

Thurston County Homeless Crisis Response Plan, 2019-2024 (PDF)

Learn more about the Interim Emergency Homeless Ordinance

Document Center

Board of County Commissioner Documents:


Planning Commission Documents:

Public Comments: