Bellevue has a balanced approach to unauthorized encampments which is focused on supporting people experiencing homelessness while maintaining public spaces for their intended use. We also address shopping carts and debris, whether or not they are related to encampments.
If you’re concerned about people living outside and/or a particular encampment location in Bellevue, you can request assistance via the MyBellevue portal or from your phone on the MyBellevue app. You can also call the police non-emergency line at 425-577-5656. If you feel unsafe or immediately threatened, please call 911.
Response to Encampments
If an encampment or vehicle residence is identified on city public property, the city’s homelessness outreach team will make contact, ensuring individuals receive supportive services that help them address housing barriers, while also finding immediate housing (possibly temporary) for them. To help individuals find housing that meets their unique needs, the outreach team collaborates with providers of affordable housing, shelter and related services, as well as government agencies, such as the state Department of Social and Health Services, the U.S. Social Security Administration and the state Department of Licensing.
If you are a private property owner and wish to report someone camping on your property, please find our how-to guide.
Camping on city-owned property and public easements (e.g. sidewalks and roadways) is prohibited in Bellevue under City Code 10.06.110. City staff consider various factors when planning its response to identified encampments. These may include:
- Length of time encampments have been in one place
- Safe use of the public right of way by all vehicles/pedestrians
- Safe use of parks and public spaces by all community members
- Clustering of several tents in one area
- Impacts on surrounding properties
- Safety and health of the occupants
- Public safety issues involving the encampment occupants
- Engagement with Homelessness Outreach staff
When an unauthorized encampment is identified, the city may post a notice of violation of the city’s public camping ordinance (BCC 10.06.110) and a notice to remove all personal belongings from the city’s property. The city's homelessness outreach team works with individuals associated with encampments to line up services and find alternatives. The individuals ultimately must remove their belongings from the location by the given deadline (typically, five to seven days from posting). If the unauthorized encampment remains after the posted deadline, and shelter is available for the unhoused resident(s) that day, the city will remove personal property from the location and store it.
The city’s processes and timeframes are shaped, in part, by several Ninth Circuit Federal Court of Appeals cases, including Martin v. Boise. Cities cannot enforce ordinances prohibiting camping in public places when no shelter space is available. Also, prior to removing encampments, local governments must provide notice to the occupants, provide outreach services to assist with identifying alternative locations, and allow time for the personal property to be reclaimed after removal.
People Living in Vehicles
Per City Code 11.23.020, vehicles cannot remain parked on the same block for more than 24 consecutive hours, unless they are in authorized time limit zones or residential permit parking zones.
Individuals violating the 24-hour parking limit, apparently living in their vehicles, are offered services and educated about the parking limit. The city also provides a verbal or written warning notice of parking violation(s). If the vehicle is still parked on the same block after a warning notice has been provided, a notice of parking infraction ticket is issued. Before and during this process, the Homelessness Outreach Team will attempt to work with the vehicle occupant to address barriers and find alternative shelter.
In 2021, the Washington Supreme Court issued a decision in City of Seattle v. Long that provided clarification on how homestead rights apply to vehicles used by owners as their primary residence. If a vehicle residence has repeatedly refused to comply with the city’s parking laws at the same location, over a demonstrated period of time, it may be impounded through an alternative process.