Issue: The City of Seattle is engaging in a systematic, proactive process of clearing homeless encampments -- demonstrating little regard for the people living in those encampments or the fact that shelters are full, permanent housing programs have long waiting lists, and we're significantly behind on progress on the Ten Year Plan to End Homelessness. Even though Seattle had a significant surplus for the 2008 budget, neither the Mayor nor the Council did anything to increase access to safe shelter for homeless people or include funding for outreach and engagement services for people living outside.
Background: On any given night, at least a quarter of the 8,000 people who are homeless in King County are without any shelter. They sleep in cars, camp in greenbelts, ride buses, and try to find warmth and safety in any way that they can. Nobody should have to live outside, but there simply is not enough low-income housing and emergency shelter for everyone who needs assistance.
Current City of Seattle clearance policies (and implementation of those policies) devastate the lives of people who are already marginalized and vulnerable. People's campsites are being systematically destroyed, and their basic survival gear and personal effects are being taken away and discarded. So far, the city has not made its policies public, nor has it permitted human services professionals or homeless advocates to review and comment on those policies.
Extensive protocols for responsible campsite outreach and clearance exist. They include ongoing human services outreach to homeless campers, assistance in accessing emergency services, and provision of long-term housing. The City of Seattle has done none of these things.
The city should CEASE ALL CAMPSITE CLEARANCES IMMEDIATELY, and take the following actions:
1. Create realistic housing and safe shelter alternatives for homeless campers.
2. Fund Outreach and Engagement workers to seek out homeless people who are not within the shelter system, and work with them to access housing and secure services.
3. Partner in good faith with homeless people and their advocates to create a fair and humane policy regarding homeless campers. This policy should include an outreach and engagement plan and the provision of real housing options.
Only when these actions have been taken will it be reasonable for the city to recommence clearing campsites.
Action: Visit www.realchangenews.org, and click “Take Action” and sign the petition calling for the city to immediately cease campsite clearances and take the steps above.