City posts sweep notice at Miller Park encampments — UPDATE

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Thanks to reader Chris for the picture

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. Continue reading

With firefighters and social workers, not cops, Seattle expands Health One to respond to homelessness, substance abuse, and mental health issues

(Image: City of Seattle)

After more than a year providing aid for homelessness, substance abuse, and mental health issues across downtown Seattle and Capitol Hill, Seattle Fire’s Health One is adding a second unit to expand its reach across new parts of the city.

Mayor Jenny Durkan and SFD Chief Harold Scoggins announced the expansion of the innovative program Tuesday.

“Seattle has pioneered community safety initiatives like Health One. As we continue to reimagine public safety, we will expand civilian public safety alternatives like Health One that sends a firefighter and social worker to a 9-1-1 call,” Durkan said. Continue reading

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: Continue reading

To protect those living in cars, Sawant calls for end of Seattle’s ’72-hour rule’

District 3 City Council representative Kshama Sawant is calling for the city’s to reinstate its suspension of restrictions that prohibit motor vehicles from being parked on streets for more than 72 hours.

Mayor Jenny Durkan and SDOT officials reinstated the rule this month after a year of pandemic moratoriums.

“For people forced to live in their cars – many of them working people – Durkan’s move could be catastrophic, costing them not only their vehicle, but also their only shelter and all their possessions,” Sawant writes. “The pandemic has worsened the severe housing crisis. We need affordable, social housing – not harassment of neighbors struggling to survive.”

The easing of Seattle parking restrictions last March including the city’s “72-hour rule” was positioned as a way to help residents get through stay at home restrictions during the COVID-19 crisis. Many on Capitol Hill celebrated the temporary end of having to shuffle their cars around the neighborhood’s high demand street parking every three days to avoid a ticket. Continue reading

‘Compassion Seattle’ proposal would provide housing, services — and, backers say, a city ‘open and clear of encampments’

The eastern entrance to the Miller Park playfield (Image: CHS)

A group of “diverse civic and community members, business and neighborhood leaders” including business groups like the Downtown Seattle Association, homelessness service providers like the Chief Seattle Club, plus the Public Defender Association, Evergreen Treatment Services, United Way King County, and the Housing Development Consortium are backing a plan to provide what they say the mayor’s office and city council cannot: a comprehensive strategy of housing, services, and clearance resources to address Seattle’s longrunning homelessness crisis.

Led by former councilmember and mayor Tim Burgess, the Compassion Seattle coalition is backing a charter amendment that would fundamentally change Seattle’s governmental structure around managing homeless services and create a separate $200 million fund to back it.

The proposal would back up its efforts to provide housing and services with a requirement that “city parks, playgrounds, sports fields, public spaces and sidewalks and streets” remain “open and clear of encampments” once the programs are available.

From Compassion Seattle’s announcement: Continue reading

Durkan’s office responds to call for housing and services — not sweep — to clear Capitol Hill’s Miller Park

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. Continue reading

Mayoral candidate Echohawk calls for ’emergency action’ to stave off sweep in ‘growing crisis around the homeless tent encampment at Miller Playfield’

(Image: CHS)

Concerns for the lives of the people living in the Miller Park encampments and worries about a sweep before next month’s planned return of in-classroom instruction at the campus’s Meany Middle School are driving Seattle mayor’s race candidate Colleen Echohawk to speak up now and call for the city to start emergency actions immediately.

“The main thing that is so frustrating, and the reason I’m running, is sweeps are so ineffective,” Echohawk tells CHS.

The executive director of the Chief Seattle Club human services agency says the situation at Miller underlines her campaign’s mission to make the city’s response to the homelessness crisis a core of the 2021 election — even if they don’t win, “we push efforts,” she said Tuesday morning.

In her statement, Echohawk called for “emergency rehousing of homeless people living in parks and public spaces 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 said those services along with the physically safe spaces are key.

“This is a humanitarian crisis, and it’s not working for anyone,” Echohawk said in the press release sent to media Tuesday. “It’s not working for the people in the tents. It’s not working for the neighbors living nearby. It’s not working for the people that want to use the playfield and it’s not working for the Meany community with school starting back up.”

CHS has an inquiry out to Durkan’s office about its efforts at Miller and the concerns about any impending sweep. Continue reading

City has few answers in neighborhood meeting over Miller Playfield encampments

(Image: CHS)

When an encampment at Capitol Hill’s Cal Anderson Park was swept in December, nearby parks saw a growth in tents as some unsheltered people looked for new places to go. One of those growing campsites is 19th Ave’s Miller Playfield.

Now with the district making plans for students to return to the adjacent Meany Middle School and the kids at nearby St. Joseph’s School already back in the classroom, neighbors met virtually Wednesday night with Deputy Mayor Casey Sixkiller and other city officials. The meeting organized by the Jesuit parish was set ostensibly, organizers said, to hear the city’s plans for interacting with the encampments over the next couple weeks and implore the city to prioritize removing individuals from Miller and find housing options for them.

“We invite you to join us, but want to make clear this will not be an open forum where anyone can speak,” the invite read. “We want to be very focused on getting concrete responses from the Deputy Mayor.”

“It’s an emergency, so if the city isn’t up to it, we need to know that,” one attendee said, summing up the tone of the night’s conversation.

The meeting came amid growing complaints about trash and disorder blamed on the encampments even as the COVID-19 crisis continues and limits safe options for shelter during the pandemic. It also fell only hours after Seattle Police officers and parks employees cleared about 20 people from Denny Park earlier Wednesday. Public health guidelines advise against sweeps during the COVID-19 crisis if there are no safe shelter alternatives available.

Meanwhile, Mayor Jenny Durkan’s administration has taken to touting the pounds of trash collected under a “Clean City” surge program set to end in April that has been focused on “removing trash to begin to set Seattle up for clear road to recovery—for our businesses, schools, neighborhoods, and residents.”

“Our challenges here at the city are not just about CDC guidance,” Sixkiller told the attendees of St. Joseph’s online session Wednesday night. “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.” Continue reading

Seattle forgoes federal homelessness funding in smaller than planned hotel ‘shelter surge’

The Executive Hotel Pacific at 4th and Spring (Image: Executive Hotel Pacific)

As evidence builds that hotel shelters can help and increased funding becomes available to create new shelter opportunities in the city, there is a crisis within a crisis for Seattle’s mission to help the thousands of homeless and underhoused people who live here.

The Seattle Times reports that Mayor Jenny Durkan’s plan to secure apartment units for 24-hour shelter and provide more rental assistance is coming in with fewer spaces and help for fewer people than expected.

The crux, the Times reports, is how the city decides to divide its millions of dollars in potential resources earmarked for the problem as it splits its effort across people who cost less to support and have lower needs around issues like addiction and mental health and people with the most challenging, expensive support needs who are regularly entangled with the city’s law enforcement resources.

Seattle’s “shelter surge” will now launch months late and will not be using as much federal funding as first expected to create the 125 units and provide rental assistance.

The smaller approach is especially frustrating for advocates after revelations Durkan’s office has decided to forgo available FEMA funding. Continue reading

Seattle’s temporary ‘Clean City’ surge claims 1M pounds of trash collected from parks and neighborhoods last month

Mayor Jenny Durkan is touting her “Clean City” initiative as a success based on volume alone — the program is claiming 1,000,000 pounds of trash collected in January from parks and neighborhoods across the city.

“The pandemic has taken a toll on our community in many unseen ways, one is the growing graffiti, trash and garbage in parks and on streets,” Durkan said in a press release on the 1 million pound milestone. “The Clean City Initiative has increased our focus on removing trash to begin to set Seattle up for clear road to recovery—for our businesses, schools, neighborhoods, and residents. We have much more work ahead to deliver for our residents and businesses.”

CHS reported here on Durkan’s $5.6M “temporary surge in increased trash pick-up” and “proactive cleaning in parks and open spaces.”

The city says the initiative has included clean-ups at Cal Anderson following the sweep of encampments at the park and around Miller Community Center where a large collection of tents and shelters has grown. “This work includes additional litter routes, weekly park and neighborhood focuses, increased trash pickup from encampments and RVs, and additional needle collection efforts,” the city says. Continue reading