Seattle parks are ‘spiraling’ into danger and chaos at a time when they’re needed most
SEATTLE – Homeless encampments in Seattle parks aren’t a new problem, but it’s a city resident that residents say has gotten significantly worse during the pandemic. Now community leaders are demanding that city officials do something, immediately.
“There’s shit everywhere, it’s dangerous. It’s not a safe environment. The dogs used to run in the park, I used to sunbathe and read a book. You can’t do this anymore, so it’s really sad,” Ballard resident Gaby Guarneri said.
Guarneri has lived across from Ballard Commons Park for 20 years. She said the city’s navigation team used to come and clean the park once a week, but since it was eliminated by the city council, nothing has been done about the campsites. – growing shelter.
“I feel bad because they are people too, but someone has to do something about it,” Guarneri said.
“This is a danger to public safety, with the city’s parks and public places becoming incredibly unstable,” said Tim Gaydos.
Gaydos, the founder and president of Friends of Denny Park, is one of many community leaders who signed a letter sent to Seattle City Council and Mayor Jenny Durkan about the current state of the city’s parks.
“A few weeks ago the parks put up signs to indicate that the playgrounds are now open, as they had been closed all this time during COVID, since March! And then they put up signs saying they are now open, and they did here in Denny Park, but they are completely unusable because we have dozens of needles in the playground at the bottom of the slides” , said Gaydos.
He said that we had to act for the well-being of all.
“It has become a public safety hazard for people in the park, as well as for neighbors. And with the navigation team disbanded, there really aren’t any tools in the toolbox to really help create a safe atmosphere here,” Gaydos said.
As part of the SPD’s funding cut, the Seattle City Council disbanded the department’s navigation team this summer. This team paired officers with outreach workers who serve the city’s homeless population.
So what is the city doing about helping the homeless now that the navigation team is gone?
On Monday, the city council passed a bill that earmarks more than $2 million to fund an eight-person unprotected awareness and response team.
Mayor Durkan’s office said the city followed CDC advice during the pandemic not to remove homeless encampments unless it posed a serious safety hazard. His office said the focus continues to be on helping access housing and shelters
No member of the Seattle City Council told us about this story. Mayor Durkan’s office said the passage of the bill is an important first step toward forming a coordinated, citywide response to homelessness. She also hopes the city council will approve her pending proposal to open more than 400 short-term accommodation beds.