Seattle’s oldest emergency

Seattle has faced four civil emergencies this year, with the COVID-19 pandemic continuing to rage, the protest movement on systemic racism, and most recently the cracked West Seattle Bridge.

But Seattle City Councilmember Andrew Lewis says he likes to remind his colleagues that the city’s longest running emergency is homelessness, with a state of emergency issued in 2015.

“We forget that the original one and one that continues to be ongoing and just has a horrible impact that drags everything else down is just the massive chronic homelessness on the streets of the city of Seattle,” said Lewis, who chairs the council’s Select Committee on Homelessness and Housing Affordability.

King County’s annual point-in-time count continues to show a persistent homelessness crisis with 11,751 individuals experiencing homelessness on one night in late January, a 5% increase from last year but still below the 12,112 counted in 2018. Among those, 53% were sheltered and 47% unsheltered, the same as 2017 and 2019. Continue reading

City clears tents and Seattle Central fences-off plaza lawn where post-CHOP camp formed — UPDATE

The south lawn of Seattle Central is fenced off and cleared of tents after the city moved in Tuesday morning to clear the camp that formed in the wake of the July 1st raid and sweep of the CHOP occupied protest.

The college announced the clearance in an email to the campus. “After two weeks of working with homeless support services, speaking with organizers, and hearing from employees and neighbors, the college received assistance from the city of Seattle this morning to clear the illegal encampment at the South Plaza without incident,” SCC president Sheila Edwards Lange writes. The full email is below.

CHS is not aware of any arrests in the clearance.

UPDATE 5:40 PM: A city Human Services Department spokesperson tells CHS that the school was mistaken in reporting that the Navigation Team executed Tuesday morning’s clearance. “The operation today was SPD and not the Navigation Team,” the spokesperson said. “There may be some confusion around Navigation Team SPD officers being involved but they would be operating under their SPD chain of command and not in their roles as members of the Navigation Team.”

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School says no CHOP 2 at Capitol Hill’s Seattle Central

Remnants of CHOP at Seattle Cenral (Image: CHS)

There will be no rebirth of the CHOP occupied protest camp on Capitol Hill’s Seattle Central College campus.

School officials say they will not allow a small camp of tents to grow on the college’s south lawn.

“We are currently working with the City of Seattle Police Department and navigation team to relocate the people camping on our property,” a spokesperson for the public community college told CHS Thursday. Continue reading

Sparked by outbreak crisis, Seattle debate over homeless encampments carries on

A tent at Miller Community Center

A tent at Miller Community Center (Images: CHS)

The ongoing battle between the mayor’s office and business and neighborhood groups on one side and advocates and homelessness service providers on the other has taken new shape in Seattle’s COVID-19 crisis.

A five-hour Seattle City Council meeting Wednesday afternoon couldn’t settle the most recent flare-up as a council committee heard public comment and debated a proposal to more strictly limit when homeless camps can be removed during the ongoing outbreak. Health guidelines have generally called for allowing people to camp and live outside during the pandemic due to concerns around social distancing and sometimes higher-risk shelter environments. Continue reading

Seattle deploying ‘hygiene trailers’ with reservable showers

With the COVID-19 outbreak continuing to smolder in the Seattle region, officials are ready to deploy a new resource to help people living unsheltered and hopefully further slow the spread of COVID-19:

The City of Seattle is set to deploy two shower trailers in locations across the City to support the hygiene needs for homeless residents within their communities. Beginning Thursday, King Street Station will host a shower trailer five days per week, and a mobile shower trailer will be hosted in Lake City and Seattle Center, with more locations under consideration. King Street Station will also receive a hygiene station. In addition, a hygiene map, located on HSD website, that represents all open and available facilities was launched with this effort.

The city says its new shower trailers include three shower stalls each plus a toilet and sink. Hours of operation are 10 AM to 4 PM, excluding holidays, as the trailers are deployed on a schedule around the city: Continue reading

As facilities evolve and adapt to the COVID-19 crisis and Seattle’s homelessness priorities, the Central District welcomes two new shelters

Mary’s Place has a new place in the CD (Image: Mary's Place)

Mary’s Place has a new place in the CD (Image: Mary’s Place)

Outside the 18th and Yesler building (Image: Mary's Place)

Outside the 18th and Yesler building (Image: Mary’s Place)

The COVID-19 crisis has posed a unique challenge for homeless shelters across King County as congregate shelters, housing people in shared spaces, have seen outbreaks amongst their guests and staff, and new strategies for providing safer services to the homeless are being implemented. Two new shelters — one planning to open at the end of the month and one recently starting service — are joining the efforts to meet housing needs in the Central District.

Mary’s Place signed a two-year lease to open a new shelter on 16th and Yesler in the space formerly home to Keiro Northwest Rehabilitation & Care Center. The new shelter space is well-suited to meet social distancing guidelines and will have 46 private rooms with bathrooms inside, according to Marty Hartman, executive director of Mary’s Place.

“When COVID hit then we had to start de-intensifying our shelters [to create social distancing],” Hartman said. “We actually ended up closing three shelters and consolidating, and we knew that this building provided everything that could provide a healthy, safe place for families that was less traumatic for them.” Continue reading

With Seattle U Homeless Rights Advocacy Project roots, Third Door Coalition emerges as alternative to ‘Tax Amazon’

A coalition to address homelessness in the Seattle region announced a proposal Tuesday to build 6,500 units of permanent supportive housing in King County in a five-year, $1.6 billion effort.

The Third Door Coalition was founded in 2018 “with focused conversations at Seattle University” and includes a group representing the restaurant and hotel industries, academics, and homelessness service providers and advocates including Chad Mackay of Fire & Vine HospitalityProfessor Sara Rankin of Seattle University School of LawDaniel Malone of the Downtown Emergency Service Center, and Paul Lambros of Plymouth Housing.

“The plan calls for a public-private partnership to fund an estimated capital cost of $1.6 billion over the next five years,” a Seattle City Council announcement on the launch of the effort reads. “The Coalition also identifies ways to drive down the currently high costs of building permanent supportive housing.” First-year council member Andrew Lewis says he will announce “specific policies to advance the goals of the Third Door Coalition’s recommendations” in coming weeks. Continue reading

Seattle Council looks to rein in homeless sweeps during COVID-19 crisis

The Seattle City Council will pursue emergency legislation to limit homeless encampment sweeps during the COVID-19 crisis. South Seattle rep Tammy Morales is joining Central Seattle’s Kshama Sawant and citywide member Teresa Mosqueda in pushing for a compromise solution to the city’s ongoing clearance of people camping and living outside.

Seattle City Council Insight reports the proposed legislation would “align the city’s practices with guidance from the CDC, which has warned that removing encampments can disperse homeless people into the larger community and potentially increase transmission of COVID-19.” Continue reading

Capitol Hill ‘comfort station’ part of Seattle scramble to help homeless people get through COVID-19 crisis

UPDATE: The city has provided this new map with updated information

The City of Seattle has deployed a Capitol Hill “comfort station” at Cal Anderson Park as part of efforts to increase access to sanitation for people experiencing homelessness during the COVID-19 outbreak. Meanwhile, another dangerous health crisis has emerged here with a disturbing increase in hepatitis cases in the city.

While modeling shows that Washington may have passed the peak of the coronavirus pandemic, people who are unsheltered are feeling the worst of its effects as minimal access to clean running water and restrooms mean the virus can spread rapidly among this vulnerable population.

This was the tense topic of discussion at a Wednesday meeting of a Seattle City Council committee as officials were confronted with local activists calling on them to reopen public spaces and staff them with the National Guard so they will be available to people who are experiencing homelessness.

At the Chief Seattle Club in Pioneer Square, the club’s executive director Colleen Echohawk told the panel that they had to limit bathrooms to four people at a time to comply with social distancing guidelines. One woman, who Echohawk said was menstruating, begged her to use the bathroom.

“I could tell you many, many stories of just desperate need for bathrooms and showers,” Echohawk said. Alison Eisinger, executive director of the Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness, added, “What we are seeing unfold in our city is a truly shocking experience.” Continue reading

Sawant loses fight but ‘Tax Amazon’ COVID-19 relief and housing proposal begins path through Seattle City Hall

With COVID-19 set to tear up the city’s budget, District 3 Seattle City Council member Kshama Sawant has turned again to a familiar target: Amazon and the biggest two percent of businesses. But Monday, her council counterparts opted to send a proposal for a new tax on Seattle’s largest companies to provide emergency relief from the pandemic down a legislative pathway not controlled by the Socialist Alternative representative for Capitol Hill’s District 3.

More than 5,400 people signed a petition to the council spearheaded by Sawant to enact the new tax proposed last month with South Seattle rep Tammy Morales. Another over 1,100 people emailed council members calling on them to send the legislation to Sawant’s Sustainability and Renters’ Rights Committee.

Monday, the suite of three bills was sent unanimously to the Select Budget Committee, chaired by council member Teresa Mosqueda, who said she would work to get the legislation a robust discussion with urgency.

Sawant levied criticisms against council member Lisa Herbold and council president Lorena González for their votes to repeal her head tax on Amazon in 2018.

Monday, several council members, including Herbold, pushed back against Sawant for promoting the idea of a divided council during an emergency.

“I don’t think it’s helpful to really promote that divisive approach to how the council does its business,” Herbold said. “I think this council acts in a way that’s fair and respectful of one another.”

Council member Debora Juarez said “this type of politics in the midst of a lethal pandemic, to me, is unacceptable and a waste of time.” Continue reading