No homeless camping in Seattle parks and schoolyards


Seattle cannot – and should not – attempt to wipe out homelessness, one camp, one person at a time. But he also cannot tolerate widespread illegal camping.

SEATTLEITES rightly feels overwhelmed by outdoor homeless settlements. The number of camps reported to the city has increased tenfold since 2013 – 3,046 at the end of June. In the past year alone, the number has more than doubled.

In response, the teams transported more than 125 tonnes of waste this year. And yet drifts of garbage, needles and excrement accumulate in underpasses of highways, in the international district of Chinatown, in Ballard and elsewhere.

What should the city do, in the midst of the homeless crisis? Seattle cannot – and should not – attempt to end homelessness one camp, one person at a time. But he also cannot tolerate widespread illegal camping. It undermines the livability of the city and hurts businesses while tolerating the squalid living conditions in a supposedly progressive city.

The city’s response must be balanced – compassion and pragmatism, combining cleansing and awareness.

Sadly, Seattle City Council derailed Tuesday by suddenly introducing legislation that would drastically stifle enforcement of unauthorized homeless settlements. The legislation was drafted by social justice groups philosophically opposed to such an application. This goes as far as rewarding homeless campers $ 250 per person if a Byzantine process that requires 30 days notice for pending sweeps is not followed by a T.

The one vote against the introduction of the legislation – Council member Tim Burgess – described it as effectively creating a right to camp on public property, including parks and schools. He’s right: the ordinance makes it impossible to move a homeless camp off public land for 30 days, except in dangerous circumstances. If the people of Seattle think the homeless camping situation is bad now, this legislation, if not changed, would make it worse.

The left council has made it clear how crooked it is on the issue. A large group of elderly residents of the Chinatown International District showed up on Tuesday to testify that homeless camps under Interstate 5 on South Jackson Street have added to needles and crime outside their food bank . These are the same camps that the Wing Luke Historical Museum said it has reduced attendance, raising concerns about its future.

Yet before those residents could testify, Council Chairman Bruce Harrell first chose to vote on the legislation and send it to a committee. It was only then that Qiu Feng Peng, an elderly resident, told the council, “The elderly are even afraid to go out right now.

For a council that talks so much about confronting race and social justice, it was blatant silence from a valued and vulnerable community. ”

For a council that talks so much about confronting race and social justice, it was blatant silence from a valued and vulnerable community.

The council’s action also caught the attention of Mayor Ed Murray, who has previously appointed a task force to review city policies on sweeps of homeless settlements. These policies clearly need to be corrected, as the Times’ Mike Baker documented in a story about homeless assets lost by dysfunctional bureaucracy.

This working group, co-chaired by former board member Sally Clark, should strike a better balance on the issue of homeless camps. Whether the city council listens is a whole different matter.


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