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With students about to return to campus, middle school PTSA calls for city to hold off on any sweep of Miller Park encampments — UPDATE

Members of the Meany Middle School PTSA are calling on Mayor Jenny Durkan, Seattle Parks, and City of Seattle officials to give a group trying to help relocate campers more time and hold off on any planned sweep of homeless encampments at the Miller Park playfield and campus where the school is located. The school is slated to begin welcoming more students back for in-person instruction Monday, April 19th.

The mayor’s office says the Homeless Organizing Community Seattle group and PTSA are misinformed.

“As you are probably aware, an encampment of neighbors experiencing homelessness has grown on Miller Playfield (near Meany) over the past months,” the message from the  PTSA to families at the Capitol Hill public middle school begins:

At this time, it appears that the Seattle Parks and Recreation department is scheduling a sweep of those encamped there on April 16th. On Friday, we learned that a shelter has become available for Miller residents and that the majority of residents are interested in relocating. However, we have also been advised that it will not be possible to complete the housing application process until shortly after the scheduled April 16th sweep. Please join Meany PTSA in advocating for a brief delay before the sweep takes place in order to allow Homeless Organizing Community Seattle (HOCS) to assist in the transition.

“An early sweep will force residents to move to other outdoor spaces, making it difficult or impossible to locate and provide them with the assistance they require,” the PTSA message reads.

Kamaria Hightower, a spokesperson for Mayor Durkan’s office, tells CHS the “statements are inaccurate.”

“The city has provided offers of shelter to all individuals residing in the Miller encampment and is currently working with city-contracted outreach providers and the city’s HOPE team to support people in their transition indoors,” Hightower writes, adding that as far as she was aware, “HOCS nor the PTSA have not been in frequent contacts with any city officials regarding the encampment.”

CHS is not aware of any clearance notices posted at the site by Seattle Parks.

HOCS, meanwhile, has not responded to CHS’s inquiry about the situation and the reported relocation effort.

UPDATE 10:40 AM: Area resident Rachel Ravitch who has been working with HOCS on the situation at Miller countered the mayor’s office and provided information showing the relocation issue is a matter of timing.

According to HOCS, the REACH well-being program has been “visiting the park regularly, almost weekly, but has not been able to place very many people into housing, only one person that we are aware of was offered housing over the course of the past year and this is because they already had a case manager through REACH that was working on getting them in to housing previously.”

Progress began on April 7th when HOCS says the city’s Homelessness Outreach and Provider Ecosystem team was finally able to begin offer the Miller campers housing as part of the Executive Inn program, the city’s new rent voucher program at the downtown Seattle hotel.

But Ravitch says that the Low Income Housing Institute-run program at the Executive Inn is limited to only around four to five intakes per day. Even if every camper at Miller qualified for the program, outreach workers won’t be able to clear the camps before the planned re-start of in-person school at Meany.

“Our big question to council and The Mayor’s Office – Is this a realistic timeframe? It will be harder for all of these service providers to locate these individuals after a sweep has occurred and they are devoting a great deal of resources to make access to the Executive Inn happen for Miller Park residents,” Ravitch writes in a message to the Durkan office and officials involved in the programs. “It is giving the residents hope for a brighter future – if the sweep happens before they get in to the Executive Inn, they will be completely devastated. The trauma of being unhoused amplifies all other trauma experienced – these individuals are dealing with the daily rejection of not having their share of participation in a vibrant life. The pandemic has amplified this trauma significantly.”

You can learn more about HOCS and how to help here.

The situation at Miller has settled in over months as the city transitions from COVID-19 related restrictions and policies. 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 virtual meeting set up by the nearby St. Joseph parish that included members of Durkan’s top brass including Deputy Mayor Casey Sixkiller.

“Our challenges here at the city are not just about CDC guidance,” Sixkiller told the attendees of the online session. “It is about access to services, it’s access to housing… We don’t have places for people to go and so as a result folks have found other ways to survive through the past year.”

Mayoral candidate Colleen Echohawk, executive director of the Chief Seattle Club human services agency, has called on the city 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.”

But in a response sent to CHS, Durkan’s office said it was working to offer assistance and shelter to Miller campers but would 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 read. “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.”

The Meany PTSA is now calling for a different approach.

“As parents and caregivers ourselves, we understand the concerns families may have about ensuring their children’s safety as they travel to and from school. Our discussions with representatives from Seattle Schools, the School Board, the City of Seattle, and multiple organizations providing support to Miller residents have led us to the understanding that the current situation presents a low level of risk to students passing the encampment,” they write. “As such, we believe that a delay in dismantling the encampment so that residents can be safely rehoused would be humane, ethical, and appropriate.”

What is needed, they say, is “a sustainable plan to address encampments on school grounds and adjacent properties is needed and we will be pursuing policy conversations in the future.”

Meanwhile, the Meany PTSA is also calling for donations of cash and “rolling suitcases or plastic storage bins to hold residents’ possessions during the move” to the HOCS group.

Meany and the city’s public middle and high schools will resume some in-person instruction beginning next Monday after months of video learning under COVID-19 restrictions.

Thanks to reader Chris for the photo

UPDATE 4/14/21 9:30 AM: The city is posting notice that Miller will soon be cleared. The mayor’s office has provided a long statement to update the situation and a spokesperson says, according to the city’s contracted outreach service providers, “all residents of Miller Park have been offered shelter.”

According to the city, since March 26, the HOPE Team has made at least 24 referrals to shelter.

“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 statement reads.

The City has shelter, with wraparound services like case management, available for every person who has been living onsite, long-term. The goal is for all individuals currently residing in the Miller Park encampment to accept shelter or to voluntarily move prior to students returning to school. Today, the City will post a notice that any remaining belongings will be removed as there are many abandoned items and tents. Seattle Parks and Recreation staff will store personal items in accordance with City policy. People can retrieve their items by calling 206-459-9949.

The city has promised another update on outreach efforts by Wednesday night. “No other updates will be available before that time, as crew are on the ground prioritizing working to transition a vulnerable population into safer shelter alternatives,” the city says.


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Another Parent for Actual Acedemics
Another Parent for Actual Acedemics
25 days ago

Does anyone want to let Chandra Hampson know that she has a school district to lead, and that maybe getting that PTSA to cover her politically isn’t leadership? Everyone complains about city council, but the school directors have been having a hold my beer moment for quite some time.

KinesthesiaAmnesia
KinesthesiaAmnesia
25 days ago

@ Another Parent for Actual Acedemics: perhaps they tried notifying Hampson on her SPS public servant Facebook account, where she was unethically deleting all posts not in line with hers. That’s why I reached out to her on Twitter. It seems to have got her attention, probably because people on Twitter can’t delete other users’ comments.

My comment to Hampson & Seattle Public Schools said when we leave vets, minorities and women in slum conditions on school grounds it is not unlike government resistance to desegregation in the 1950s and modern day prison overcrowding. What I didn’t say was for both those issues, federal district courts took over when state and local governments failed to address them.

Common Sense
Common Sense
25 days ago

The Seattle Council PTSA has become an unelected shadow school board.

EnoughAlready
EnoughAlready
25 days ago

I’ve not met a single parent of a child at Meany who wants the current situation prolonged for one minute. We have empathy and sympathy for homeless people, but you cannot ignore the chaos, garbage, and yes, danger we will expose our 12-14yr olds to in this environment.

Do these PTSA members actually speak for the parents at the school?

Chris
Chris
25 days ago
Reply to  EnoughAlready

Who are all these “leaders” who put the the homeless before the safety of our children? Every day that passes, I am more and more baffled by their behavior. If they think they are channeling the pulse of the parents and students, they are sadly mistaken.

Sonathan Jwift
Sonathan Jwift
25 days ago
Reply to  EnoughAlready

I agree entirely, EA.

The encampment and its denizens really does need to go.

In the spirit of finding solutions, let me make a modest proposal: we simply grind up some of residents, and use the output of this process to feed those who remain.

It is an eminently workable solution and would, overall, improve the lot of the — mercifully reduced — number of homeless currently occupying the area.

It further helps “the children” by not exposing them to such messy realities, or at least reduces the messy-reality-exposure of “the children,” if one considered them as a sort of amorphous blob of proto-humans, as one should.

Does this sound workable? I really think it’s the answer.

Further, we could even turn this into one of the “teaching moments” you parents so love to talk about! For example, little John, or Suzie, or McKenna, or whatever nouveau name is on-trend today could easily be enlisted to help with the process.

Your child could be the one to operate the sausage grinder.

Your neighbor’s little angel could be responsible for feeding the homeless into the machine itself.

It’s about life lessons, EA. And about “the children,” and providing them with opportunities.

And I, for one, think you really need to give my most modest of proposals a chance.

JCW
JCW
24 days ago
Reply to  Sonathan Jwift

And I think you should perhaps treat this situation with a modicum of seriousness, instead of dropping flippant bullshit comments in response to what is a very real issue for those with children and the surrounding community.

Mimi
Mimi
25 days ago
Reply to  EnoughAlready

It’s utter insanity that the rights of the children to go to school in a clean, safe, healthy environment are completely disregard.

I want sanity restored to this neighborhood and community.

Gregory Parker
Gregory Parker
25 days ago

The encampment needs to be gone by the time school opens. It should have never been allowed to grow to the size that it is as it boarders a public playfield that is heavily utilized by our children. I have walked through the area a number of times with leather gloves, picking up used hypodermic needles on the field. I have just about had it. Compassion indeed. Where is the compassion for our children?

Chris
Chris
25 days ago
Reply to  Gregory Parker

It’s been a year. Enough is enough.

JenMoon
JenMoon
22 days ago
Reply to  Chris

And in a year, folks have been offered next to nothing in the way of transitional housing until a week ago. Enough IS enough; Durkan needs to stop hoarding money that’s been earmarked to get people inside.

Crow
Crow
25 days ago
Reply to  Gregory Parker

Totally agree!

louise
louise
25 days ago

This explains why things will never change here. These are delusional misguided parents.

dre
dre
25 days ago

An assessment of, “low risk,” is still a risk that you’re willing to take which could affect the lives of our children and families greatly. Just one infected needle into a child can lead to a irreversible disease which could have been prevented, not only endangering the child’s life, but also costing the taxpayers even more money to pay the millions of dollars in damages.

At what point does a neighbor become an occupier? Obviously what they are doing is illegal. Rationally, it is also unethical to allow people to live in such conditions. I worry that the leaders of this city won’t come to their senses soon enough.

Common Sense
Common Sense
25 days ago

What authority- or professional skill- does the PTSA have in determining whether – or not- the camp provides a danger to students? They are out of their league and authority. As well, the PTSA does not represent everyone at the school. This situation has gotten out of hand. The school board is responsible for student safety and it appears that is not their highest priority.

C Doom
C Doom
25 days ago

Great life’s lesson for the Meany kids to learn — that the homeless lives matter as much as theirs do. Every chance we have to reinforce this message, the better prepared they will be for their adult lives in Seattle.

AngryModerate
AngryModerate
25 days ago
Reply to  C Doom

While we’re at it, let’s remove the zoning restrictions on pot shops and strip clubs too. This is life kids!

Chaz Neighbor
Chaz Neighbor
25 days ago
Reply to  C Doom

Pretty indeterminate teaching method, and could just as well ensure a callous disregard toward the homeless.

Maybe you’re okay with homeless sleeping at your front door, and interacting with your children. But to volunteer without consent the homes of others and expose their children proves you are completely irresponsible, and maybe worse.

Mimi
Mimi
25 days ago
Reply to  C Doom

This is such a manipulation and I’m tired of it. Those of us who think kids deserve to go to school in a clean, safe, stress-free environment also have empathy for homeless people. That doesn’t mean we don’t believe in boundaries. If you surveyed people in this country (regardless of political affiliation) 99 percent of them would not think a homeless encampment belongs on school grounds. This is a no-brainer. Only in this insane environment that Seattle has become do people even have the nerve to act as if this is in any way a sane, reasonable idea.

Bring sanity back to Seattle.

YoungFogey
YoungFogey
24 days ago
Reply to  C Doom

Can we take our rose-colored glasses off for a moment and acknowledge that the conditions some of the homeless folks live in are just disgusting and sometimes outright dangerous, and nobody – not kids, neighbors, or the homeless – should really be exposed to them! I’d want my kids to be aware of the problem, sure, but not by forcing them to walk through unsanitary and potentially life threatening conditions.
Nobody here seems to be belittling the value of anyone’s life (that’s putting words in people’s mouths). That sort of rhetoric is counter productive and doesn’t achieve anything. Ignoring the problem is not going to help anyone.

CD Rez
CD Rez
20 days ago
Reply to  C Doom

they don’t matter as much as the children. Nobody wants to say it but its obvious that it is how it works. We all want to help the homeless, especially the people who will take housing and get back on their feet but the kids come first. Period. I don’t even have kids and I know that. We need mental health and drug counseling for sure but the kids come first. they haven’t failed yet and it’s infinitely more important that we serve their needs first. Spoiler alert: I was homeless at 27 for a year but I snagged a couch and made myself an asset in the home to offset my annoying presence and took a job where I had to fight drunks to earn min wage so I could claw back my way. Most of these people have fucked over everyone they know to end up out there.

Just a few more weeks!
Just a few more weeks!
25 days ago

Not really sure what waiting will accomplish. We’ve been waiting a year.

There’s no law saying the Executive Inn can only process 4 people a day, nor is that the only program in town. LIHI has a large portfolio and they are not the only ones. The idea that we just need a few more days (or is it weeks?) to get it all lined up perfectly is a lie and a fantasy that keeps us from acting. Everyone involved needs to recognize unsheltered homelessness as the emergency it is and accept some messiness as the cost of moving fast. Lord knows it’s plenty messy anyway even with a ton of advance planning.

JenMoon
JenMoon
22 days ago

They may have a large portfolio, but they’re full. And this hotel was only approved last week. It’s really interesting how people think we have tons of transitional housing. We don’t.

And no, it’s not a law how many they can process per day. It’s based on humans. They can only do so many. One more day would have made a huge difference (not a lie or a fantasy) but we don’t make any of the great folks who were out there today work weekends…or want to pay cops OT.

CCappy
CCappy
24 days ago

Oh come on! The garbage spills out and blocks the sidewalks! I walk by frequently and there are some pretty shady character hanging out. My son had soccer practice on the field and the “residents” got into very heated and disturbing arguments with the coach whenever a kid missed a ball and had to retrieve it from a “neighbor’s” “front yard.” This encampment has become an unsafe situation and needs to go. I do feel bad for the tent residents, but it is time for them to pack up their portable homes and move on.

YoungFogey
YoungFogey
24 days ago
Reply to  CCappy

While I totally agree with this, we don’t have a good enough answer to where they can go when they move on. The city has failed us all wrt/ alternatives and enough housing/shelter, and programs to cater to those who want help and others that don’t want to or can’t get it. Instead, they hide behind organisations they’re not directly responsible for as an excuse to say “but we’re doing something” (this is a personal opinion of mine), and rather run a bunch of expensive cleanup operations again and again (“battling windmills” if you will). As long as all of those issues aren’t resolved, all we do is pass the buck and some other neighborhood will have to deal with the side effects.

Caphiller
Caphiller
23 days ago
Reply to  YoungFogey

Are you kidding? All the “neighbors” at Miller park have been offered shelter. Seattle has tons of services for those who accept them. We can’t be held hostage by a bunch of drifters and addicts who want to use our public assets as their personal Disneyland.

JenMoon
JenMoon
22 days ago
Reply to  Caphiller

Except that they haven’t been offered shelter (til last week.) And if the only person you’re hearing that from is the mayor, you might want to look at those quotes again. Because they aren’t true.

Cappy
Cappy
24 days ago

Furthermore…I pay for garbage, recycling, and compost pick up every week. I get fined if I put an extra bag of garbage next to my garbage can…and in the fall, I have to pay extra for each bag of leaves too many I place curb side…even the ones I rake out of the gutters and curbs because the city doesn’t take care of. I know I am going to get slammed for my comment…I am just saying it’s not fair.

Elle E Gee
Elle E Gee
24 days ago
Reply to  Cappy

YUP. There’s the irritation of being nickled and dimed up the wazoo (with no observed “return on investment”), which is incredibly frustrating. And then there’s the environmental impact of all of the trash at these camps.

Elle E Gee
Elle E Gee
24 days ago

What is the plan to ensure those that don’t accept housing don’t just end up at another nearby park? Miller Park became what it is today because our elected officials didn’t have the foresight (or care? or ability? competence?) to see that the Cal Anderson unhoused would just move down the hill.

RWK
RWK
24 days ago

This situation is a great example of the fact that the HOPE team (city-contracted outreach workers), which replaced the defunded Navigation Team) is pretty much useless. They have regularly visited the Miller Park homeless camp for many weeks now, with absolutely nothing to show for it.
Now, if the update is correct, all denizens there have been offered shelter (probably on more than one occasion). It’s past time for the campers there to immediately accept shelter, or they will be swept. No more excuses or stonewalling.

AGSEA
AGSEA
24 days ago
Reply to  RWK

Why would they leave? They’ve built this little community and have a place to pitch their tents and keep their belongings. Why would they pack everything up and move to a crowded shelter with a bunch of strangers where they have to follow rules and might not even be able to bring in their stuff? It’s no surprise offers of shelter are turned down.

Caphiller
Caphiller
23 days ago
Reply to  AGSEA

Youd think that most people would prefer to be indoors with flushing toilets and a place to bathe.

JenMoon
JenMoon
22 days ago
Reply to  RWK

Actually, Dwight from the HOPE team was great and managed to find two tiny homes in an appropriate village for two residents with some mental health needs. The HOPE team can’t get folks into non-existent housing, especially after Durkan vetoes it again and again.

Not to be a broken record, but last week was the first transitional housing folks have been offered. Almost everyone took it; there are 4 waiting to get in and 4 with applications to submit, all sleeping elsewhere currently. Maybe 6-8 relocated, a few inside. So 30 inside.

(And of course most want to leave /smh…it’s not Disneyland. It’s incredible what people can look at and get themselves to believe about other humans so they can make them “other” or bad.)