Thursday, September 08, 2016

City May Have Not Considered Homeless Situation Well

 Update:  The bill is (Council Bill 118794).

Mayor Edward Murray ed.murray@seattle.gov
Councilmember Sally Bagshaw sally.bagshaw@seattle.gov
Councilmember Tim Burgess tim.burgess@seattle.gov
Councilmember M. Lorena Gonzalez lorena.gonzalez@seattle.gov
Councilmember Bruce Harrell bruce.harrell@seattle.gov
Councilmember Lisa Herbold lisa.herbold@seattle.gov
Councilmember Rob Johnson rob.johnson@seattle.gov
Councilmember Debora Juarez debora.juarez@seattle.gov
Councilmember Mike O’Brien mike.obrien@seattle.gov
Councilmember Kshama Sawant kshama.sawant@seattle.gov

Please let these people know that no law should be so broad as to allow public camping at city parks and school grounds.

end of update
 The Times has an editorial - No Homeless Camping in Seattle Parks, Schoolgrounds  - which seems to indicate that the new ordinance passed introduced by the City Council may have the effect of allowing homeless people to camp in city parks and school grounds. 

The lone vote against introducing the legislation — Councilmember Tim Burgess — described it as effectively creating a right to camp on public property, including parks and schools. He’s right: The ordinance makes it impossible to move a homeless camp off public lands for 30 days except in hazardous circumstances.

A large group of elderly residents of the Chinatown International District showed up to testify on Tuesday that homeless camps under Interstate 5 at South Jackson Street added to needles and crime outside their food bank. Those are the same camps that the historic Wing Luke Museum said depressed attendance, raising concerns about its future.
We truly have a situation in our city and it certainly, from many standpoints, from humanitarian to practical,needs to be addressed.

I also doubt that most homeless people would choose a school playground to camp on (although I know many camp in city parks.)

But it really isn't something that the City should have, unwittingly or not, allowed into law.

I did speak with Deputy Superintendent Steve Niselsen at the Executive Committee meeting this morning. and it is something that does concern the district.  They will be giving input on this legislation to the Council but he did offer that it would be helpful if parents let the Council know their thoughts.


Benjamin Leis said...

One important correction here. This legislation was only introduced but has not yet been passed. So whatever your position there is still time to talk with your council representative / the mayor.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Yes, Ben, I corrected that.

Anonymous said...

Does the Mayor care what residents want?

Disappointed Dem

Melissa Westbrook said...

DD, maybe not but I think the Council may listen better.

Watching said...

Thanks for this post, Melissa.

Last night the board discussed using city parks for play space. The issue of homelessness,city parks and recess, and safety is an important issue.

Mike said...

Maybe it would be of interest to know homeless folks have been living on school grounds as far back as 2002. When I was head custodian at Washington Middle School, we consistently had at least three people overnighting in the low bushes under windows. When the bags of food and clothing accumulated from nearby charities became too obvious, we'd be asked to remove them. And, of course, removing feces was a near daily chore so arriving staff and students wouldn't be offended or aware.

Day custodians at other schools reported similar circumstances. But, nobody from the District or the City had an answer for the situation. Custodians were simply told to 'do the best you can' and 'keep quiet about it'. Melissa, I've no doubt more homeless folks would jump at the chance to live on school grounds if the City and District openly allowed such.

Anonymous said...

Similar situation at the Wilson Pacific site before construction began. Conveniently, there were public restrooms near the field, plus an outlet where folks could plug in a crock pot and heat their meals. We moved from a city where going to the park with the kids meant checking play areas for used needles and other items before they could run free. Not a good situation. Let's hope the city council seeks solutions that don't compromise the safety of parks and schools.


Outsider said...

This could make for an excellent social studies unit for SPS. Something like this:

There are three types of thinking:

1) Linear thinking, where you consider only short chains of cause and effect in isolation;

2) Systems thinking, where you consider feedback loops and interactions with other systems that are connected to the one in question;

3) Not thinking, which is preferred if (1) fails and (2) yields politically incorrect results.

Using each of the methods above, answer the following question:

To how many people would Seattle need to provide free housing in order to eliminate homelessness?

Cheat sheet -- approximate answers are:
1) Roughly the number of current homeless
2) Half the planet
3) None, if we let them camp in school yards instead

Watching said...

I appreciate Mike and 2cents comments. We must be compassionate, but health and public safety are a concern. I do feel for those that must clean-up used needles etc.

Anonymous said...

This is being driven by the City Council - so you definitely need to reach out to them if you have concerns about the proposed legislation.


Catherine said...

The City of Seattle does not control school district grounds - so they can't technically allow it there. What they can do, is tell their human services groups, cleanup teams, SPD, etc to not evict campers on school grounds. Not quite the same thing, but the city needs to get it's act together about what they can and cannot do RE school grounds.

Anonymous said...

Tim Burgess seems to be the only sane person on the council in regards to the homeless issue. I can't believe I am agreeing with Tim Burgess.


Melissa Westbrook said...

HP, agree on your surprise agreement.

This all speaks to rushing to "do" something without clearly thinking it thru.

Kate said...

Agreed as well with HP and you, Melissa, and thank you for posting Council e-mails. But on this issue, he's quite clear. I think it's worth reading his post about it:


And I think it is important to write the Council.