Seattle officials delay vote on restricting encampment removals during pandemic

Update (May 28): After two hours of public comment and three hours of deliberation, the Seattle City Council declined to take action on the legislation, which will be reviewed again on June 10.

Original (May 27): The Seattle City Council will be reviewing legislation today to allow tent encampments to remain in most places of the city in order to limit the spread of coronavirus.

The proposed legislation came about after the city’s Navigation Team conducted an encampment removal at Ballard Commons Park on May 4. Back in March, the City said it would mostly stop encampment removals due to coronavirus, instead focusing on outreach. The only encampments that would be removed were those that presented an extraordinary public safety hazard.

However, city councilmember and lead sponsor of the legislation, Tammy Morales, told The Seattle Times that the Ballard encampment removal and others shows that the city’s statement wasn’t enough, and that the removal restrictions should be formalized.

The legislation proposes that the City limit the removal of encampments, “to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission and contraction by allowing individuals residing in those encampments the opportunity to develop better connections to hygiene services and increase their self-distancing, rather than focusing their efforts on locating new areas to camp or clustering into fewer areas.”

If it passes, funding to the Navigation Team will be restricted. The legislation alludes to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance that public funds should not be used to remove or relocate an unsanctioned encampment, “except in limited circumstances in order to prevent transmission of COVID-19 throughout the general population and avoid increasing risks for people experiencing homelessness.”

In a newsletter, Ballard Alliance Executive Director Mike Stewart asked the community to urge the city council to table the proposal, saying the Navigation Team’s efforts in May to remove the Ballard Commons encampment were critical to addressing the Hepatitis-A outbreak.

Will Lemke from the Seattle Human Services Department told My Ballard that since mid-April, the Navigation Team has referred 29 unsheltered individuals from the Ballard Commons area to recently opened tiny home villages and enhanced shelter beds at Lake Union Village, T.C. Spirit Village, and Lakefront Community House. He says eight individuals accepted shelter on the day of the Ballard encampment removal.

The city council’s Select Committee on Homelessness Strategies and Investments will review the legislation today, Wed. May 27 in a remote meeting at 2pm. To pass, a three-quarters vote is needed, plus approval from Mayor Jenny Durkan. However, according to the Times, Durkan takes issue with the legislation as it would limit the city’s ability to protect residents from COVID-19 and other public health and safety concerns.

You can provide public comments by registering online beginning at noon today, and the comment period will start at the beginning of the meeting. The full meeting agenda is available online, and you can watch the meeting live on the Seattle Channel or listen by phone at 206-684-8566.

File photo of Ballard Commons Park clean-up from May

27 thoughts to “Seattle officials delay vote on restricting encampment removals during pandemic”

  1. So let me get this straight. Our State government with threaten you if you want to cut someone’s hair but trashing a public park with needles, feces, and garbage all the while spreading Hep A and Covid-19 is all good?

    So we have to lose our rights, freedoms and liberty but they don’t? How is this right? Who actually supports this?

    1. Pretty much every Dan Strauss voter. They want heroin addicts to have more rights, like narcotics trafficking a la Ballard Commons, so they don’t have to follow any laws. The homeless are the protected class. They can do anything. Camp on the sidewalk, parks, urinate on water fountains, inject heroin anywhere, sell meth, steal property… all of it.
      Nice work Dan Strauss voters.

    2. If a mask works, then why are we social distancing? If social distancing works, then why are we wearing masks? If masks AND social distancing both work, then why are businesses closed? If the masses will stand in line for groceries, why can’t they also wait in line to vote? Because it’s no longer about the GD virus, that’s why. But go ahead and camp and do drugs right in our very faces. Dogs will hump right in the middle of the street too.

    1. no the voter is the idiot. keep voting Liberal, like you have for the last 50 years and keep getting the same results. Higher taxes more criminals on the street. Do you really care about political ideology over quality of life? really?

  2. The City Council hypocrisy was illustrated perfectly when Council member Lisa Herbold called SPD within minutes of discovering an RV in front of her house. In minutes.

    None of these Council idiots, especially our own Dan Strauss, have a clue as to impacts to neighborhoods. Andrew Lewis actually viewed the Commons and offered a decent assessment while Dan Strauss complained about the Navigation Team and how he wanted the homeless to stay in the park (with Hep A).

    Move some of the Ballard Commons residents in front of their houses.
    Guarantee they call SPD, just like CM Lisa Herbold did.

    Get out and make your concerns known folks. City Council has the bully pulpit and the ridiculous social just warriors spewing nonsense. Make your voice heard against anything that restricts sweeps.

    The last one at the Ballard Commons housed 29 people so far. Cleaned up the park too. The usual druggies came back or course, as they will always refuse services, but this was a win-win.

    Oppose anything the City Council does to limit encampment sweeps.

  3. If they don’t want to accept services, they should be forced out of town. Why? Public parks are for the public – those that pay taxes and their dependents. Tax-free ‘homeless’ individuals should not be allowed to occupy all available public spaces because they’re ‘addicts’ or ‘vulnerable’ or, really, any reason. If you’re not willing to become a citizen and take part in all aspects of civil life (working, paying taxes, etc), you should not be allowed to set up camp anywhere you like because there are bleeding hearts who feel sorry for you.

  4. So the city cares more about the homeless not getting the virus than protecting our children and families from all the sharps laying around other diseases and crabs these homeless people spread all around our parks and streets ! Not to mention the violence that some of these people create too ! How about the car break ins and property destruction they do also ! Has anybody seen the video seattle is dying ? Well watch it to the end there is a fix for this problem the city and state need to do this too

  5. Can we start a Ballard secession movement? Become an independent city again? I honestly can’t understand who voted for any of these council members who refuse to do the hard job of governing. The homeless need to be taken into custody, made wards of the state, and put in an assisted living facility…kicking and screaming if necessary.

  6. look, its not like the city has been very proactive in dispersing camps anyway…they’ve had the vagrants on a pedestal for years now.

  7. I listened to this for about 90 minutes. Most of the comments were against the proposal: residents of neighborhoods who have experienced the effects of homeless encampments, police and fire department representatives noting the danger to themselves and others as they respond to abnormally hazardous situations. Those in favor were tenant union rep, social services reps, etc. The conversation seemed to be that we can’t criminalize homelessness, but not addressing the fact that homeless encampments bring a significant amount of crime to neighborhoods. Not all homeless are criminals, but criminal homeless folks are not held accountable to the detriment of law abiding citizens who want to enjoy their parks without worrying about used needles, human waste, bicycle chop shops, garbage, verbal assaults, and aggressive panhandling. Our city leaders have failed to responsibly deal with this crisis as it grew and now a few city council members want to continue to penalize law abiding, taxpayers, who volunteer and give back to their community. I don’t know what the answer is, but it can’t be what was proposed to the city council today. Educate yourselves and vote!

  8. The “file photo” published with this article was taken by Erica Barnett, to support one of her (many, many) anti-sweeps screeds. Barnett hates the “sweeps,” just as she hates anyone who supports them. So she oh-so-carefully composed a picture of a group of policemen, to create the impression that the SPD oppresses (an, by implication, brutalizes) the “homeless” and “most vulnerable.” It’s her “story,” and despite any and all evidence to the contrary, she’s sticking with it.

    A more honest and responsible picture would have been one of the Commons before the cleanup, which was ringed with tents and tarps, littered with garbage and stolen property, and filled with people not practicing “social distancing” or wearing masks, making them a petri dish for propagating communicable disease. It might have shown a low-income elderly person trying to walk by the chaos. It might have shown a Ballard Commons essentially empty of “housed” citizens, even on a warm, sunny day.

    1. Add to that the in the open drug trafficking in the open.
      There have been a fews times where residents of the Commons were cooking meth and heroin on a spoon, then injecting it. There were groups just helping each other inject drugs. Some passed out right away but many eventually went into the heroin tirade and walked around the neighborhood.
      Cannot see how Seattle pro-drug policies help these people. They are becoming worse, more addicted, more likely to commit crimes and overdose.
      What the hell Dan Strauss voters?

  9. The City Council wants to perpetuate the problem because it enables them to endlessly increase taxes and demand services. This is why the problem in CA, OR, IL, NY, etc. NEVER GETS BETTER. EVER.

    Think about it, the only place in TX that has this problem is Austin. In most cities, it doesn’t exist at all. Seattle politicians have no intention of ending the problem, enforcing the laws on the books, or arresting these vagrants who make their livelihood by stealing from YOU.

    And, btw, if you say anything, you don’t “care.” This is the phony excuse to allow lawlessness, abuse, and exploitation of the people who are actually following the law and paying the taxes.

    1. Fifteen years ago…even 10 years ago…i would have considered you to be a crackpot. But that changed after I worked on the United Way “End Homlessness in a Decade” program. In that work I saw the financials of numerous HHS orgs. The most memorable a-ha moment came when I learned that Sharon Lee, the CEO of Low Income Housing Institute (LIHI), made $200,000 a year.

      I make about that myself, private sector, and I put up with a world of bullshit at work because that’s good money. I do anything to make sure that good money doesn’t go away. It’s reasonable to think Sharon (and all the other 6-figure nonprofit execs) think along the same lines. It’s human. But in this case, it’s a material negative impact on our city.

      It’s troubling. And on top of it there’s Sawant and her pals fomenting discord and decay. People are called paranoid for thinking that’s to bring about the “revolution” if things get dysfunctional enough. For now, that still seems a bridge too far, but who knows.

      This city is a mess.

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