We reported in our Aug. 20 issue that 10-plus homeless encampments, along with the filth, trash, and smell, had been cleaned up on South King Street under I-5.
Now, the Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness, the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington, Real Change, Columbia Legal Services, and the Seattle Community Law Center are pushing for a 30-day waiting period before doing a sweep. Currently, the city provides a 72-hour notice to people in the encampments before removing them and must also offer social services. The newly proposed ordinance would also require the city, within the 30-day waiting period before a sweep, to connect campers with social services and housing at a less-dangerous site. And the groups want the city to make a more serious effort to keep people from getting separated from their belongings.
In an email, Jessa Timmer, executive director of the Chinatown-International District Business Improvement Area (CIDBIA), said, “Many council members are considering adopting this ordinance, which would halt encampment cleanups. The only voice that is being heard is from the homeless advocate groups. Many of us in the affected communities — businesses, residents, employees — are not being heard by the council.”
The council will return from its current recess on Sep. 6 and a member will have to formally introduce this bill for consideration. After that, the bill is likely to go through Council Member Sally Bagshaw’s human services committee, which meets on Sep. 14 at 2 p.m. Bagshaw has been outspoken about wanting to better protect homeless people from sweeps.
By taking an ordinance directly to the council, the advocacy organizations are attempting to bypass Mayor Ed Murray, with whom they’ve repeatedly butted heads. Both the ACLU and Columbia Legal Services have declined Murray’s invitation to join the task force charged with making recommendations on how to improve the city’s response to camping, including its guidelines for sweeps — reportedly because they are tired of all talk and no action.
“We’re focused on passing this ordinance because we feel strongly that now is the time for action,” Elisabeth Smith, ACLU’s legislative director told the Seattle Times. With wetter and colder weather approaching, Smith said, “We don’t want to keep talking while people are living outside.”
If you are against this proposed overhaul, make your voice heard! Email Mayor Murray (firstname.lastname@example.org), city council members (seattle.gov/council/meet-the-council), and Pramila Jayapal (Pramila.Jayapal@leg.wa.gov), our district representative, about how this proposed ordinance will affect you, your business, or your community.