Sometimes, you don't want to be right. When the City of Seattle released their homeless encampment protocols this year, we predicted that the "recurrent encampment clause" -- which states that if encampments return to an area that has been swept three times within a six month period, responsibility to the campers no longer exists -- would be used to return city policy to the gloves-off treatment of homeless campers by this fall.
It's happened. The Cherry St. viaduct, which has long been the site of numerous outdoor meals programs and home to 30-40 people per night, has received permanent no trespass status, and campsites are being removed without notification, outreach, or storage. The policy, unsurprisingly, works. On a recent night, just two campers were there under I-5.
So, homelessness is being solved. Right? Wrong. Homeless people are being chased around without being offered help. Their possessions are being thrown away. They soon, we believe, will start receiving citations that threaten criminal penalties for trespass. This is not help. This is repression.
The Cherry St. Viaduct sweeps are a harbinger of things to come. As homeless campers are swept from place to place without being offered adequate alternatives, they will, inevitably, be somewhere. As these "somewheres" are systematically eliminated, the additional toll in hardship, stress, and pure meanness to be endured will escalate. Advocates are watching the city closely on this one. If bare survival is the best, that this city can offer, for some, it ought not make one a criminal.