County wants to get rid of homeless camps near rivers

County wants to get rid of homeless camps near rivers »Play Video
YAKIMA, Wash. -- County commissioners say your safety along the banks of the rivers is a growing concern throughout the entire county.

In an effort to turn that around, commissioners are trying to make it harder for transients and homeless to live along the water.

It's a growing problem that's hard not to notice.

"Tarps and stuff tied up in trees, for blocking wind. Fires and tents and lots of trash along the river bank there," Tyler Ekenbarger said. "I've actually seen a naked homeless man bathing in the river."

Tyler Ekenbarger says he sees it just about everyday near the Naches River.

It was a similar scene just last month. Action News was there when the Department of Transportation had to break up a homeless camp near Highway 12.

"I'll go down there in a group but I'll never go by myself," Kellie Armstrong said about areas near the river.

There currently isn't a strong county code prohibiting people from sleeping on county-owned property. However, commissioners will vote to pass an ordinance Tuesday to give authorities more power to remove those who do.

It will make it illegal for anyone to sleep or live on county property.
And it will make it easier for police to cite and arrest violators.

Commissioners tell Action News they hope the ordinance will also give peace of mind to those who use the the greenway.

Tyler says he's happy with the county's effort to clean the area up, fearing that the worst could happen if it isn't stopped.

"They get on drugs and stuff like that, they don't know what they're doing," Tyler said. "They're gonna try and attack somebody. Maybe kill them possibly or take their money."

The county says posting signs for no-trespassing and hours of operation hasn't worked. Violating the new ordinance will be considered a misdemeanor.