Homeless encampments are being razed and the belongings of homeless people — tents, clothing, personal ID — is being thrown away like garbage. Join the Real Change Organizing Project (RCOP) next Wed., Dec. 19, for an overnight tent city and rally at City Hall to demand an end to campsite clearances and development of more long-term shelter.
As the year dwindles to a close, the homeless encampment issue has become a flashpoint within the city. Articles on the subject in Real Change have led to not-so-nice opinion pieces in the Seattle Times and P-I. Although the City Council has begun to voice its anxiety concerning the City’s clearing policy, a halt has not been established. The RCOP has been working to ensure that survival is a right for everybody, that people without anywhere else to sleep and their belongings are not thrown out of our greenbelts like trash.
The RCOP has been working on the encampment issue for the past eight weeks. Our petition circulated through vendors and volunteers, activists and donors, with over 1,300 signatures to date. We presented these signatures to City Councilmembers at a Dec. 3 briefing, but an end to these clearances has yet to occur. All the while, homeless people feel even more disenfranchised from a society that seems to be targeting them. As they are pushed further into the woods, we will not be ending homelessness — but hiding it.
During the 2007 One Night Count, 7,839 people in King County were found to be sleeping on the street, in parks, greenbelts, their cars, shelters, or transitional housing. Of these, 2,159 went without any form at shelter at all. Many of the people sleeping outside chose to set up a tent or tarp under a roadway or in a park-owned open space.
Since May of 2007 city officials have been coming into these camps (oftentimes without advance notice), clearing people out, and confiscating their survival gear. Sometimes claims are made that these “sweeps” are prompted by “concerned” neighbors. But during the clearance of one Queen Anne greenbelt, the personal belongings of the campers were targeted, while trash and refuse remained untouched.
Many commentators have argued that these campers should seek refuge in one of our city shelters. Unfortunately, the shelters are full. The U.S. Conference of Mayors reported that over half of all shelter requests by homeless families went unmet last year. People are turned away from emergency shelters and shelter placement services every night. The city cannot force people out of their camps unless we can provide an alternative for them.
We will be gathering at City Hall (corner of Fourth Ave. and James St.) on Wed., Dec. 19, to remind the city that they are still accountable to every resident of the city, whether that person is homeless or not. We cannot tolerate these encampment clearances any longer.
The rally runs from 5-6 p.m. The overnight campers will set up during this time and get warm for an overnight stay at City Hall. Willing overnight campers contact Natalie at firstname.lastname@example.org or (206)441-3247 for more information. Everyone has the right to survive.
Call to Action courtesy of the real change Organizing Project