Mayor Jenny Durkan’s office has responded to a call for emergency action to provide housing and services to clear tents and encampments at Miller Park playfield before the mid-April return of in-person instruction at the campus’s Meany Middle School.
A statement from the mayor’s office says Durkan is seeking “additional resources” from FEMA but says “removal” of encampments will happen “if individuals do not accept shelter or the resources offered.”
“The City has been using every federal dollar possible to move more people inside, and the Mayor spoke with the White House today to ask for additional resources,” the statement sent Tuesday night from Durkan’s office reads. “Encampment removals have been limited over the last year due to COVID-19, but the City believes we have to address encampments on sidewalks, playfields, and parks as we open new shelter spaces like the Executive Pacific Hotel and Kings Inn operated by Chief Seattle Club.”
“Individuals will be offers (sic) shelters at these locations from parks and encampments across the City,” the statement reads.
Mayoral candidate Colleen Echohawk, executive director of the Chief Seattle Club human services agency, called on the city this week to take emergency action to avoid a sweep and offer “emergency rehousing” to those camping at Miller that follows the JustCare model — transitioning people to a safe place to sleep while providing wrap-around services such as mental health and addiction treatment.” Echohawk and others have also blasted the Durkan administration for inaction with FEMA funding available that, Echohawk says, would allow Seattle to “immediately begin moving homeless people into unused hotel space.”
The Durkan response sent to CHS Tuesday night did not rule out a sweep.
“Often after weeks – sometimes months – of outreach and services offered, individuals may still decline to move,” the mayor’s office statement continues. “When that is unsuccessful, the City must still address the broader public health and safety concerns, including making sure children can get to and from school, and believe all City Councilmembers, candidates for Mayor and the School Board should support this approach.”
“As businesses and schools reopen, we will continue to offer these resources, with the same commitment to leading with outreach and addressing the welfare of our unhoused neighbors along with that of nearby residents and businesses, which may mean removal of an encampment if individuals do not accept shelter or the resources offered,” it concludes.
In January, three weeks after police led a city sweep of encampments and activists from Cal Anderson, CHS reported on how encampments have grown in other Capitol Hill parks including Miller which has grown into the largest in the area.
CHS reported on concerns about the camps and tents raised earlier this month in a neighborhood virtual meeting set up by the nearby St. Joseph parish that included Deputy Mayor Casey Sixkiller. The city says workers from homeless services nonprofit REACH have been at the playfield and Seattle Parks workers have been at the site to perform regular maintenance and clean-up.
Seattle Public Schools, like districts across the state, must being offering an option of in-person instruction to students after a year of online-only classes by April 19th.
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