It’s one of those things that is impossible to gauge — Are there more homeless campers on the streets around Broadway and Pike/Pine? Or just a few examples of larger, more permanent than usual camps? Or is it this way every year and we just forget? Whichever the case, humans have possessions and property no matter what their housing status is.
This camp cleared from Cal Anderson in January included 800 pounds of items, according to Seattle Parks.
City Council members Sally Bagshaw and Bruce Harrell say they are working on a plan for a system of lockers to be made available to homeless people and those in need to store their belongings. The goal is to have 100 lockers available in Seattle before the end of the year:
Here’s a small step we can take toward restoring a sense of dignity and safety in Seattle:
• Like Lisbon, provide freestanding lockers outside. Those who get the lockers must maintain regular contact with their case manager, keep the locker area clean, and agree not to store illegal substances or weapons.
• Like Berkeley, negotiate with a private storage company to make lockers available at fair prices. Locker users must be in regular contact with a case manager and have a plan to get off the street.
• Like Madison, contract with human service providers to add lockers or protected storage areas where they offer showers or food.
• Like Sacramento, work with local churches and shop classes to build simple wooden lockers available across the city.
Will we face opposition? Of course.
Some will complain about public costs. Or fear terrorists. Or worry about the burden of watching someone else’s stuff. Some of these concerns are real, yet other cities have found ways to deal with the worries while providing something substantial that helps. So can we.
Over the next 100 days, we will investigate what has worked in other cities. We will investigate costs and solutions. We will work with the Mayor and our other partners to set a goal of adding 100 lockers in our city this year.
There have been past efforts to assist homeless people in Seattle with storage but they have been run by non-profit organizations and at a much smaller scale than the new proposal.
In the meantime in the East Precinct, calls for businesses using the city’s trespass program continue to to move many of the campers along. Empty retail spaces and buildings shuttered and awaiting development, however, sometimes provide the opportunity for a camper to create a long-term place to sleep and store belongings.
Bagshaw and Harrell acknowledged the lockers would be only “one small tool” to help Seattle’s homeless population. A locker proposal isn’t yet on any upcoming City Council agenda.