The city has posted notice it intends to sweep Miller Park encampments as early as Friday morning.
Required notices ordering the removal of personal property were posted Wednesday at the Capitol Hill playfield, community center, and school campus. The order provides an “as of” date and time of Friday, April 16th at 9 AM for the.
The date comes five months to the day of the notice to clear another major flashpoint in the city’s homelessness crisis at the camps in Cal Anderson. With activists and protesters joining the camp area at Cal Anderson last December and amid a brief and unsuccessful court battle to stop the process, Seattle Police waited two extra days before leading the sweep so Seattle Parks and city clean-up crews could enter the park.
This time at Miller there is no legal fight for a temporary restraining order and the deadline is driven by the the pandemic-reshaped school year. Monday, students are slated to return for in-person instruction at Seattle’s public middle and high schools, including Meany Middle School on the Miller campus.
CHS reported here on the school’s PTSA joining homeless rights advocates in calling on Mayor Jenny Durkan and the city to hold off on sweeping Miller while campers are relocated to the downtown Executive Inn shelter program.
Durkan’s office and city officials have pushed back on the PTSA and Homeless Organizing Community Seattle saying outreach has been underway and all people living at Meany have been offered shelter.
“Just yesterday, the City had multiple openings at the Navigation Center, a low barrier 24/7 enhanced shelter operated by DESC and the newly renovated Otto’s Place which is 24/7 enhanced shelter operated by Compass,” a spokesperson for Durkan tells CHS. “On Monday, there were multiple spots available at Jan & Peter’s Place Women’s Shelter, a smaller 24/7 enhanced women’s shelter with intensive case management. Outreach continues to engage those at Miller who did not accept these offers of shelter.”
The Durkan rep also says the camp represents a public safety risk:
Between October 1, 2020 and April 5, 2021, the Seattle Fire Department responded to the general area of Miller Park Playfield over 23 times. Of these responses, 14 were for illegal burns or tent fires, six were for Basic Life Support medical responses (minor injuries) and three were Advanced Life Support medical responses (more serious in nature). Additionally, there were times where a unit was directed to investigate a fire or life safety complaint out of service, and there were also calls that were transferred to AMR or SPD. Health One also responded to the site on at least one occasion.
According to HOCS and homeless advocates, city programs have been “visiting the park regularly, almost weekly,” but intake to programs has been slow and workers need more time to safely clear the camps.
But the Durkan representative said the city is focused on clearing the camps before Monday. “Students will be returning to Meany Middle School on April 19, and the City is committed to providing students access to school that is safe and accessible,” the rep writes.
Meanwhile, District 3 representative Kshama Sawant has responded to the planned sweep with a petition.
“When Mayor Durkan swept our homeless neighbors from Cal Anderson Park earlier this year, many were forced to move to nearby Miller Park,” it reads. “Now, Durkan intends to sweep them again on April 16. Miller community members, and homeless outreach workers have met regularly with people living in Miller Park, and report that people want to move to the Executive Hotel Pacific (a hotel currently operated by LIHI for homeless housing). Outrageously, Mayor Durkan’s planned sweep does not give the Executive Hotel Pacific time to move people in!”
UPDATE 4/16/2021 6:30 AM: The Durkan office says six people who have been in camps at Miller remain at the playfield and provided an update to CHS on Homelessness Outreach and Provider Ecosystem (HOPE) Team outreach efforts:
As of Wednesday, April 14, 30 individuals have been referred to shelter from Miller Park since March 26. City contracted providers have offered enhanced shelter, tiny house village, and temporary hotel-based shelter to individuals. So far, the Executive Hotel Pacific has been the only shelter resource people have accepted, passing on the other available shelter options like enhanced shelter and villages. All shelter options provide wraparound services to help end a person’s experience with homelessness, such as case management, mental and behavioral health services, and housing navigation support services.
According to a representative for the city, the HOPE Team “believes that the small number of people remaining on site and engaged in outreach, will likely be placed into shelter” by Friday.
The city says there are five more people who have been living in camps at Miller but who are not currently at the site. The city says it has shelter resources available for those campers, too.
The mayor’s office has promised a new update Friday afternoon — “after the playfield is restored and the HOPE Team has finalized referrals and data.”
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