‘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. Continue reading

City posts sweep notice at Miller Park encampments — UPDATE

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 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

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

With pop-ups for vulnerable communities, Seattle looks to turn the tide on inequity in COVID-19 vaccinations

Lucille Henry receives her first Covid-19 vaccine

With reporting and photography by Alex Garland

Tents are up tonight at Miller Playfield’s sport courts where the pickle ball players usually rule. It’s a COVID-19 vaccination pop-up just off 19th Ave E for the city’s deaf and blind communities.

Last week, CHS watched as seniors from the Central District traveled to 14th Ave’s First African Methodist Episcopal Church for another vaccination effort to reach a community that has so far been underrepresented in the state’s totals.

The distribution of COVID-19 vaccines in Seattle and across Washington hasn’t been exactly equitable but efforts in the city to help reach vulnerable communities are helping to address the inequities one pop-up at a time.

BIPOC elders gathered at FAME last week to receive their first dose of the Moderna vaccine administered by Seattle Fire at one of the pop-up vaccination clinics being hosted across the city.

Alesia Cannady was one of the group of grandmothers who came in together for the Thursday session. Continue reading

City says removal notice doesn’t mean full sweep of Miller Playfield encampments — UPDATE

Seattle Parks says notices left with homeless campers at Capitol Hill’s Miller Playfield apply to only a portion of the city property and aren’t part of a full sweep of the encampments.

The notices left at encampment sites on the north lawn area require the area to be cleared by January 11th. 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

‘De-intensifying’ to fight the outbreak, Capitol Hill and Central District community centers to host temporary homeless shelters

Miller Community Center (Image: Seattle.gov)

An effort to “de-intensify” Seattle’s homeless shelters by giving people more space and greater social distance as part of the city’s COVID-19 response will create a 50-bed temporary shelter at Capitol Hill’s Miller Community Center.

The new facility from Compass Housing Alliance will create a location for the shelter and service provider to offer as it works to help slow the spread of the virus.

“King County and the City of Seattle are working closely with higher capacity shelter providers to create more social distancing between individuals, which can help to prevent the spread of COVID-19,” a statement on the new temporary facility reads.

A total of 685 expansion spaces are being created as part of the effort.

A 50-bed facility will also open in the Central District at the Garfield Community Center hosted by Catholic Community Services, YWCA, and WHEEL. Continue reading