Dear Mayor Durkan,
The Chong Wa Benevolent Association is the umbrella organization for 21 traditional Chinatown associations. We’re happy to be a partner during this COVID-19 emergency. Since March, we’ve been working with other agencies in the Chinatown-International District (ID), and city and county departments, to translate and pass on critical health and safety information to Cantonese and Mandarin speakers in the community, as well as connecting and assisting business owners with small business resources.
Being the first state with a reported COVID-19 case, we applaud your leadership and collaboration with state and county officials to providing a proactive, science-based response to flatten the curve and local stabilization resources to protect our region’s health and livelihood.
We are reaching out to you today regarding a serious safety problem that we need the city to act on. There is a growing encampment under the I-5 freeway on King Street that took two years (2015–17) of community effort to have it removed.
The encampment poses a threat to our fragile neighborhood on many levels. Due to COVID-19 anti-Chinese stigma, the economy of the area was devastated long before restaurant “delivery and takeout only” began. Chinatown is extremely vulnerable to COVID-19 due to its density and high number of senior housing units. With this encampment, we’re experiencing the seen-before effects of hypodermic needles, campers sleeping on our front steps blocking doorways, piles of garbage, and break-ins. However, this encampment presents an increased level of physical danger to the public. There have been two recent shootings, one occurring at 10th and Weller within a block of the encampment, and one in the encampment at 8th and King which resulted in a fatality. The encampment residents are clustered closely together without proper facilities for frequent hand washing and sanitation, putting them at high risk of contracting and spreading COVID-19 and hepatitis A.
Despite social disparities that placed unfair burdens on Chinese, forced to live in dirty industrial-adjacent areas of town in sub-standard quarters deprived of basic services, historically Chinese and Chinatowns in the United States have been blamed for epidemics. Today, when it comes to fending off COVID-19, we still have the extra burden of proving we are not a virus. Of all places, there cannot be a COVID-19 or hepatitis A outbreak in Chinatown. If an outbreak occurs, regardless if it is spurred by the unfair burden of this encampment, it will reflect negatively on Chinatown. Organizations and volunteers have been working tirelessly, putting themselves on the front lines every day in the ID, to prevent an outbreak and ensure wellbeing. This growing encampment is an affront to all the efforts, past and present, to keep the ID safe and healthy. We implore you to not let history repeat itself.
We’ve heard that there have been discussions about providing trash service, portable toilets, and wash stations to remedy the situation. That is not a solution. As other camps around the city are relocated, this camp grows larger each day. The encampment needs to be removed immediately before another fatal shooting or an outbreak of COVID-19 and/or hepatitis A occurs.
If you have any questions, I can be reached at 206-679-5507. I look forward to hearing from you.
President, Chong Wa Benevolent Association and Education Society
Bing Kung Association
Chew Lun Benevolent Association
Eng Suey Sun Family Association
Gee How Oak Tin Family Association
Greater Seattle Chinese Chamber of Commerce
Hai Ninh Community Association
Hip Sing Association
Hop Sing Association
Kai Ping Association
Kwong Tung Association
Lee Family Association
Luck Ngi Musical Club
Lung Kong Family Association
Seniors in Action
Soo Yuen Benevolent Association
Suey Sing Association
Teo Chew Mutual Association
Wong Family Association
Yee Fung Toy Family Association