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‘Moving day’ — Residents move on as Miller Park cleared after months of homeless camping — UPDATE

With reporting and photographs by Alex Garland

With help from community and neighbors, plus a contingent of city workers and police, a final group of campers moved off of the grounds of the Miller Park playfield and community center as a Friday morning deadline for a sweep and clearance came and went.

Some people who left Friday had been living at Miller since the height of pandemic but Monday’s planned resumption of in-person classes at the adjacent Meany Middle School created a public safety and health situation that city officials said could not be allowed.

One person living at Miller said he had been camping there for seven months but had only been contacted by outreach workers for shelter two weeks ago.

In January, three weeks after police led a city sweep of encampments and activists from Cal Anderson, CHS reported on how encampments grew in other Capitol Hill parks including Miller.

CHS reported on concerns about the camps and tents in a March neighborhood meeting that included members of Durkan’s top brass including Deputy Mayor Casey Sixkiller. The situation at Miller formed over months as the city transitioned from COVID-19 related restrictions and policies.

At Miller, there were calls from the school PTSA and homelessness advocates to hold off on any sweep to provide time for those living at the playfield to find housing and services from city outreach efforts. By Friday’s deadline, the city says there were six people who were still camping at the site. CHS witnessed at least five people being moved as the city cleanup commenced.

“It’s move day. We thought maybe folks need help moving some stuff,” Miller neighbor Doug Hobkirk told CHS about his decision to be at the field Friday morning. There were problems, but as camps go, things settled down pretty good here. It’s a whack a mole thing. There were people here who were moved from Cal Anderson.”

Mayor Jenny Durkan’s office says updates from the city’s Homelessness Outreach and Provider Ecosystem (HOPE) Team outreach efforts show “30 individuals” who as of Wednesday had 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,” a mayor’s office representative said. “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.”

The city says its 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 believed it would be able to move any remaining Miller campers into shelter Friday.

The playfield and playground were closed for the day’s clean-up. The city said any remaining belongings will be removed including abandoned items and tents would be removed. “Seattle Parks and Recreation staff will store personal items in accordance with City policy,” the notice read. People can retrieve their items by calling 206-459-9949.

In all, around 25 or so activists, neighbors, and community members showed up with fresh sleeping bags, luggage, coffee, dollies, ready to help with the moves.

Meanwhile, a presence of around eight to ten Seattle Police officers were also on hand but were not needed. No arrests were reported.

UPDATE 4/19/21 10:00 AM: Here is an update from the city following Friday’s clearance:

As of Friday, April 16, there have been 41 referrals to shelter from Miller Park since March 26.  40 referrals were to the Executive Hotel Pacific with the other referral to a tiny home shelter unit today.

Over the more than two weeks of focused and extensive engagement by City contracted outreach providers at Miller Park, unhoused individuals were offered 24/7 enhanced shelter, tiny house village, and temporary hotel-based shelter options. All of these 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. City contracted outreach providers also have other resources including diversion and hotel vouchers available to individuals.

This morning when City staff and City-contracted outreach workers arrived at Miller Park, there were 8 individuals experiencing homelessness at the park. 5 had been residing at Miller Playfield long-term, and 3 had arrived more recently. Offers of shelter, including rooms at the Executive Hotel Pacific, tiny homes, and enhanced shelter, were made to all individuals which six individuals accepted. Two declined offers of shelter, including the offer of hotel-based shelter, and left the park voluntarily.

There have been daily outreach efforts at Miller Playfield for weeks and the City created a by name list of individuals to track referrals into shelter. According to the HOPE Team and outreach providers, there were 34 people living unsheltered at Miller Playfield as of Friday, April 9.

Of those 34 people, 28 were referred to shelter. Preliminary data shows at least 16 of those referrals enrolled into a shelter (information on enrollments from more recent shelter referrals is being confirmed). The other six individuals left the park voluntarily over the course of the past week. Referrals to shelter were made to additional individuals that arrived at the park in recent days. Parks and Recreation staff stored 7 storage bins of remaining belongings, which may include abandoned items, and discarded any remaining debris. People can inquire about stored items by calling 206-459-9949, and the City will make arrangements to deliver belongings.

 

Here is a chart of the spaces available daily to the individuals at Miller Playfield: 

Set-Aside Vacancies Enhanced  Temporary Hotel Shelters Village Total
31-Mar 3 4 2 9
1-Apr 12 4 5 21
2-Apr 0 4 2 6
5-Apr 12 4 1 13
6-Apr 2 4 NR 6
7-Apr 2 4 1 7
8-Apr 16 4 2 22
9-Apr 16 4 NR 20
12-Apr 12 5 NR 17
13-Apr 4 5 NR 9
14-Apr 3 5 NR 8
15-Apr 14 6 NR 20
16-Apr 8 5 2 15

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JenMoon
JenMoon
3 months ago

The mayor’s rep needs to check his facts; until last Tuesday, the hotel- based shelter is the ONLY housing that has been offered to folks camping at Miller. While some may have passed on enhanced shelter, there’s always been folks asking if the tiny house villages are accepting more people.

“ “City contracted providers have offered enhanced shelter, tiny house village, and temporary hotel-based shelter to individuals,” a mayor’s office representative said. “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.”

This is the 3rd time I’ve seen the mayor’s office attempt to either get out of a Martin vs Boise charge or just make it look like all the people living outdoors prefer it.

Not.

The Ghostt of Capitol Hill
The Ghostt of Capitol Hill
3 months ago

Literally shaking right now.

fro
fro
3 months ago

I volunteer with the homeless and many people prefer to live outside. the list of why is long, like PTSD or just not wanting to live by the rules that come with housing, and frequently not wanted to spend money on housing, etc. People who want housing usually aren’t picky. The amountof money wasted by agencies duplicating services and not working together wastes money enough to house hundreds

JenMoon
JenMoon
3 months ago
Reply to  fro

Nod, yes. Some do want to be outside but trying to make it look like everyone experiencing Homelessness are all this way or all that way is a favorite of more than the Mayor’s office. Stating that tiny houses were “available” to those at Miller every day (shown on the table above) is disingenuous since there are guidelines and prioritization and Miller is one tiny group on the Offer list. It ends up causing hostility from the community who think no one wants to be housed.

One amazing and great thing to see; 4 agencies working together as quickly as possible to get everyone applications, help them fill them out and get them submitted through REACH, HOPE, and the Urban League. Without this, pretty sure this endeavor would have failed.

DSuzanne
DSuzanne
3 months ago
Reply to  JenMoon

Why did it take the various agencies in some cases 7 months to do that?

RWK
RWK
3 months ago

“One person living at Miller said he had been camping there for seven months but had only been contacted by outreach workers for shelter two weeks ago.”

If this is true, then it means that the HOPE outreach workers are not effectively doing their job, even though they are being paid to do so. This must change, because there are many other encampments where homeless people need to be brought indoors, and the camps cleared.

JenMoon
JenMoon
3 months ago
Reply to  RWK

It’s true because first, the HOPE team was supposed to stay at desks and coordinate from there. But if there isn’t housing to offer, it doesn’t help. By the time he had housing to offer, he was moving as fast as possible as was our REACH rep. Reminder; most congregate shelters lost 1/3 of their space at the beginning of Covid because they had to spread out.

Kathleen
Kathleen
3 months ago

Great job reporting, thank you.

Jay
Jay
3 months ago

I am happy to be able to use my local field again without the worry of junkies around my kids.

Crow
Crow
3 months ago
Reply to  Jay

Yes, my child met her friend at Miller today. Wouldn’t have happened over the past year, glad things are getting back to normal.

MGray
MGray
3 months ago
Reply to  Jay

Those junkies are someone’s kids.

lnpanicek@gmail.com
3 months ago
Reply to  MGray

I appreciate this reminder to folks. I hear a lot about how no one has been able to take their kids to Miller because of all the needles and human waste. I live directly across the street and go there several times a week with my 5 year old daughter. There are tents, there are trash. I’m sure there are needles and human waste in some places. But I have never seen it with my naked eye nor has it ever prevented me from being able to play on the playground or at the sports field with my daughter. It’s a complicated problem without a simple solution but the oh dear the needles and feces everywhere is hyperbolic for sure.

Chris
Chris
3 months ago

I live across the street as well and took my kid to Miller during this whole thing because, well, it’s the closest park, but I can assure that that the feces and needles are not hyperbolic and were there in plain sight week-in and week-out. The feces had become less once the port-o-potties were dropped in, but the needles did not become diminished.

The clearing of miller represented a psychic weight off of my chest. We have our park back and our neighborhood is nice again. I chose to live here because of that park. It was taken from us. That was not right.

DSuzanne
DSuzanne
3 months ago

With the feces transmitted Hep outbreaks at Seattle homeless camps, some fatal (2019), I’d rethink having a child play anywhere with human feces being walked in and spread about the field. I lived in a part of Vietnam where that was an issue, and otherwise healthy children literally died from it.

KinesthesiaAmnesia
KinesthesiaAmnesia
3 months ago
Reply to  MGray

Maybe all those someones should take their kids back.

MGray
MGray
3 months ago
Reply to  Jay

just a reminder.. since it appears that they are not humans to you.

MAR
MAR
3 months ago
Reply to  MGray

What a delightfully passive-aggressive, virtue-signaling comment! You sure showed him.

Miller-adjacent resident here. First and foremost I’m glad shelter and services have finally been given to those living in the park. It took way too long but better late than never.

Secondly, anyone who would shame a parent for wanting to keep their kids safe from discarded needles and human waste (both of which I’ve seen with my own two eyes in Miller more than I’d care to mention) needs their head examined. Come on, man.

Caphiller
Caphiller
3 months ago
Reply to  MGray

They didn’t say anything about them not being human… just a reasonable assessment of safety risk to children…

EnoughAlready
EnoughAlready
3 months ago
Reply to  MGray

Yes. And they deserve treatment for both the mental illness and the addiction many are exhibiting. Leaving them in misery in tents outside on public property is not compassion.

Bruh
Bruh
3 months ago

Why do they say months? The tents were there over a year ago.