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Counting Capitol Hill’s place in Seattle’s homelessness crisis

Camping on Broadway

Seattle has been rightly outraged by reports that its police officers issued “pointless” $500 tickets to homeless people camping in Ballard even as the city pursues more effective solutions involving outreach and housing. But hundreds more homeless people every month find themselves involved with police thanks to a program many have applauded and some Capitol Hill businesses utilize every day to keep their storefronts clear of campers.

Overnight Thursday, volunteers will conduct a count of homeless people living unsheltered across King County. On Capitol Hill, all they need to do find the campers is check out SPD’s trespass statistics.

Using incident data from SPD, it’s clear that the city’s trespass program is growing in use across Capitol Hill and the East Precinct where calls rose to around 10 per day in 2017, up 84% in only two years. The jump mirrors changes in the city as a whole where trespass calls have jumped 64% since 2015.

Overall, Capitol Hill, the Central District, and First Hill have grown to generate more than 50% of all trespass calls in the city. In 2012 when CHS first began watching trespass data, East Precinct generated just over 10% of the city’s trespass calls. In addition to more businesses taking part in the program, East Precinct officers are also have trespass authority in the areas around I-5’s greenbelt.

Under the program updated in 2013, property owners and business owners can sign over trespass authority to police and let them handle the resulting legal process around a trespass situation. Most enforcement involves a warning but repeat offenders can end up in more serious trouble. The calls vary but many mark the start of a new day on Capitol Hill as businesses prepare to open and have campers filling their doorways.

The trespassing so far outpace the contact rates of the city’s new homeless Navigation Team which pairs outreach workers with police. The Navigation Team visits both unsanctioned and sanctioned encampments that are with or without risk of removal. The city has been conducting around 600 sweeps a year to clean up encampments.

Friday morning’s tally by Count Us In volunteers is likely to show a continued increase in unsheltered people. In 2017 under a new system for the count, teams of three to four volunteers led by the paid guides fanned out by census tract throughout King County. Around 200 teams participated to cover as many of the county’s 398 census tracts as possible. The 2017 Count Us In tally counted a total of 11,643 people experiencing homelessness countywide. There were undoubtedly more who went uncounted and more who have since come to the area.

Seattle, meanwhile, has entered another year of its homelessness emergency and is planning to spend $34 million on services to stem the epidemic in 2018 in what leaders have called a “fundamental shift” in approach.“By moving people from living on the street to permanent homes, we provide them a springboard to better opportunities and a more stable life,” then-Mayor Tim Burgess said. The city has also formed a task force charged with finding new revenue to help pay for the homelessness crisis. TheProgressive Revenue Task Force has until February to deliver recommendations to the council that identify progressive revenue sources as well as specific investments for said revenue that help address Seattle’s homelessness crisis. If the task force doesn’t deliver recommendations by the imposed deadline, the council will begin considering implementing a version of the employee head tax by March 2018. Additionally, District 3 representative Kshama Sawant now chairs the City Council’s newly formed homelessness committee. 


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22 Comments
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Sadday
Sadday
3 years ago

Wow, the police come for a trespass??? Since when?? We called for a junkie smoking crack, selling little baggies of crack, starting fights and flashing his penis and bare butt to the people walking down E Pike St including children. Called 911 What a F-ing joke! Police on Capitol Hill SUCK! He was there for over 6 HOURS! Police did NOTHING!

CityOfVagrants
CityOfVagrants
3 years ago
Reply to  Sadday

I’m not sure you can blame the police when our joke of a city council won’t adequately fund them. On top of that they get crucified when they actually enforce our laws.

Sloopy
Sloopy
3 years ago
Reply to  Sadday

Agreed, police responsiveness has been very poor for the past few years.

Privilege
Privilege
3 years ago
Reply to  Sadday

“On top of that they get crucified when they actually enforce our laws.”

LOL, okay. The feds seemed to agree with the public’s “crucifying,” but whatever.

SPD appears to intentionally drag its heels, probably because significant portions of its members actively hate Seattle and its residents. They prefer their neighborhoods in Lynwood, Everett, etc.

Bob Knudson
Bob Knudson
3 years ago
Reply to  Sadday

@ privilege: can you give some evidence for your very doubtful assertion?

ltfd
ltfd
3 years ago
Reply to  Sadday

@ Privilege, totally disagree with your stance on SPD. They are significantly understaffed compared to comparable American cities, and the City Attorney’s Office won’t enforce civility laws by prosecuting people cited by SPD Patrol Officers. As to “them” residing in Everett, Lynwood, etc. – yes they do, as well as in Puyallup, Maple Valley, Bellevue, Burien, Shoreline, and even Seattle (including Capitol Hill).

I think what they hate is the destruction of the civic fabric of our society secondary to the opiate crisis and the inability of city government to hold scofflaws equally accountable for their crimes & misdemeanors, with housed or not.

poncho
poncho
3 years ago

Throw more money at the problem, create more special services and committees, build up the Homeless Industrial Complex and yet the problem keeps getting worse.

Bob Knudson
Bob Knudson
3 years ago

This article states that Seattle is spending $34 million on homeless services, but I believe the figure is significantly more than that…..something like $60 million. King County as a whole spends almost $200 million, and this does not include the huge housing levy that was passed a year or so ago. And, yet, as is obvious, the problem keeps getting worse.

AdamG
AdamG
3 years ago
Reply to  Bob Knudson

I believe the children are our future
teach them well and let them lead the way
I also believe in actual data instead of numbers random commenters pull out of their ass

Sloopy
Sloopy
3 years ago
Reply to  Bob Knudson

Ok, AdamG, let’s see your data!

CD neighbor
CD neighbor
3 years ago
Reply to  Bob Knudson

Why do I suddenly feel like pulling on my leg warmers, pleated jeans and neon velour…
wait… wasn’t that sentiment supposed to feed starving children in Africa?

Bob Knudson
Bob Knudson
3 years ago
Reply to  Bob Knudson

@AdamG: According to today’s SeattleTimes, King County spends “nearly $200 million on homelessness services annually, which confirms what I said. So there!

CD neighbor
CD neighbor
3 years ago

I don’t think we’ll make a dent in the homeless problem here until we use a bunch of that money to provide more mental health and substance abuse treatment with it – and get the collective will to require, rather than just offer it, for the people who need it…

Bob Knudson
Bob Knudson
3 years ago
Reply to  CD neighbor

I completely agree! A bland offer to a homeless person for “treatment” is almost always rejected. I would gladly vote for alot more money for addiction and mental illness treatment, IF it was mandatory. But no doubt the ACLU would object.

Brian
Brian
3 years ago
Reply to  Scott f

We need more of it. Another great and relatively cheap example is the fencing below the Spokane Street viaduct. The fences now permanently prevents unpermitted, dangerous camps from popping up and spilling out into the roadway.

HTS3
HTS3
3 years ago

I agree with the earlier comment relating to the amount the city spends on the homeless situation. It’s more like $60 million, not $34. And again, another article that talks about the new group tasked with coming up with, no, not a solution, but another revenue stream to increase what we are spending now. Seattle funded two studies several years ago. They both concluded we were spending enough, just not in the right places. We MUST make the organizations we are funding be accountable before we spend more money. This is silly.

evil Johnny
evil Johnny
3 years ago

The homeless problem today is like the homeless problem in the 30’s during the Great Depression. Thanks to man’s greed we see a big portion of our population give up on the American dream.

Brian
Brian
3 years ago
Reply to  evil Johnny

No it’s not.

CD neighbor
CD neighbor
3 years ago
Reply to  evil Johnny

Er…. 25% unemployment during the Great Depression… 4% today… Nope not very much alike.

People giving up during the Great Depression… not so much… they migrated away from the dust bowl, they joined the CCC (and planted 3.5 billion trees, built the Great Smokey Mts. National Park, built the Grand Coulee Dam – and on and on). They were tough and they persevered.

Cap Hill Booster
Cap Hill Booster
3 years ago
Reply to  evil Johnny

“The homeless problem today is like the homeless problem in the 30’s during the Great Depression. Thanks to man’s greed we see a big portion of our population give up on the American dream.”

Not according to the National Alliance to End Homelessness:

•The national rate of homelessness in 2015 fell to 17.7 homeless people per 10,000 people in the general population from 18.3 in 2014. The rates in individual states ranged from 111 in the D.C. to 7 in Mississippi.

•The rate of veteran homelessness continued its descent of the past several years to 24.8 homeless veterans per 10,000 veterans in the general population. The rates in individual states ranged from 145 in D.C. to 9 in Virginia.

•The majority of states had decreases in every major subpopulation: family homelessness (33 states and D.C.), chronically homeless individuals (31 states and D.C.) and veteran homelessness (33 states).

Seattle’s problem is familiar to anyone who watches fools in the park feeding pigeons everyday. Suddenly you have a pigeon problem.

Cap Hill Booster
Cap Hill Booster
3 years ago

“police responsiveness has been very poor for the past few years.”

You get the police you ask for.