We were alerted this past summer to increased activity by City personnel in areas with encampments inhabited by people who are homeless. We spoke and met with staff from several city departments, visited encampments, and talked with people directly affected. We were deeply troubled to learn that tents, sleeping bags, and cooking equipment had in some cases been removed or destroyed, while garbage remained. We learned that people received insufficient notice to vacate, and had in at least one case been threatened with arrest when attempting to retrieve personal belongings.
On Sept. 13, we sent a letter to Mayor Nickels in which we respectfully requested an opportunity to review and provide input into the city-wide protocol on encampments which is apparently being drafted. We look forward to hearing from the Mayor’s office in reply to this letter.
How our city responds to the needs of people living under bridges and in parks is directly related to how we are implementing our Ten Year Plan to End Homelessness. Every January, SKCCH conducts the One Night Count of people without shelter in King County. Last year volunteers documented that at least 2,159 people were sleeping outdoors in one three-hour period. In the absence of adequate shelter and affordable housing, many people have no alternative than to sleep in parks or in their cars. This fall, as part of the Seattle Human Services Coalition, SKCCH proposed that the City Council invest $275,000 of this year’s budget surplus to fund an outreach and engagement team to work intensively with people living outdoors.
SKCCH is creating a task force to review current city procedures, study successful models, and make recommendations for how best to respond to this aspect of our regional homelessness crisis. Throughout this process, we call on our elected officials and government personnel to treat people like human beings — not trash.
People interested in learning more about the SKCCH Task Force should contact Dan Wise at email@example.com.
Alison Eisinger, Executive Director
Tamara Brown and Sinan Demirel, Co-Chairs
Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness