Aberdeen’s restricted access to homeless camp draws lawsuit

TACOMA, Wash. (AP) — Aberdeen’s efforts to restrict access by visitors to a longstanding homeless encampment along the Chehalis River have drawn a federal lawsuit.

People have lived at Riverfront Camp — formerly known as Hobo Beach — for more than a century. The site used to be private property, but the city bought the land in August with plans to clear it out, saying it wasn’t fit for human habitation.

Aberdeen said it would allow residents to remain through the winter if they registered, and more than 100 did. But Mayor Erik Larson also gated the property and said anyone entering without permission was subject to arrest.

An Episcopal priest, the Rev. Sarah Monroe, filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Tacoma on Monday. She said she was denied permission to enter, in violation of her religious liberties. Also suing were a Tacoma man and an Aberdeen woman who say it violates their free speech and other rights to force them to register to visit friends or relatives at the encampment.