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

After Cal Anderson sweep, other Capitol Hill park encampments grow

A sign of protest before the Cal Anderson sweep

Though outreach efforts moved many campers into shelter in the sweep and clearance of tents and encampments from Cal Anderson just before Christmas, officials acknowledge camps have grown in other parks away from Capitol Hill’s core and tell CHS work to connect people to available facilities continues.

At one Seattle Parks field, Cal Anderson campers moved in immediately following the Friday, December 18th police raid and city worker sweep. Some brought vehicles and the shelter materials that had become parts of the scene for weeks along 11th Ave where Cal Anderson has now been officially reopened to the public after six months of closure.

Others joined the camps at Capitol Hill’s smaller park in the following days. A Seattle Parks representative tells CHS “there is no limit or measurement managed by SPR about how many people can camp.” Continue reading