Please Write to Board and City Council on Homeless Encampments at Schools

Update: here is a letter that Superintendent Nyland sent the City Council on this topic.

Also CM Lisa Herbold got right back to me and she says:

Here is the pertinent language in the most recent draft that resulted from the discussion about the Central Staff memo options that you identify here. I believe the next draft will be available online soon. The ordinance addresses how the City manages public space as defined here:

“Public space” means any area within the City limits which is owned, leased, maintained, controlled, or managed by the City, and does not include Public Development Authorities, privately owned land, public schools and colleges, the University of Washington, or the Port of Seattle.

Thank you for staying engaged. We still have much work to do on this bill.
End of update

PLEASE write to the Board, asking them for a resolution to be passed ( AND the City Council urging them to make sure that school properties are not in this bill.   (There is a proposed amendment to take schools out but until that happens, this bill should be DOA.)

The bill is (Council Bill 118794).

Mayor Edward Murray
Councilmember Sally Bagshaw
Councilmember Tim Burgess
Councilmember M. Lorena Gonzalez
Councilmember Bruce Harrell
Councilmember Lisa Herbold
Councilmember Rob Johnson
Councilmember Debora Juarez
Councilmember Mike O’Brien
Councilmember Kshama Sawant

Councilman Tim Burgess' latest thoughts on this legislation.
As introduced on September 6, the proposed law establishes a new right to camp on public property across Seattle, including in our parks and greenbelts, and on sidewalks and planting strips. The law mandates that city government make public spaces available for camping in tents or vehicles. It creates complicated rules and processes that must be followed before anyone can be removed from a camping site. If anyone is removed, the city government must provide “adequate and accessible” long-term housing. Finally, if any of this process is violated, the proposed law establishes a $250 penalty per violation to be paid to the individual camper by city taxpayers.
Needless to say, this new law is not the balanced approach we all deserve, an approach that weighs and balances compassion with our public health and safety obligations. This proposed law is not balanced and will do absolutely nothing to move people from homelessness to safe and appropriate housing. Nothing.
He includes video from KIRO tv about homeless people sleeping in the end zone at the Interbay Athletic field.  The police will not come and eject them and even told one parent to just play around them.

Here's my letter today to the Board, urging them to Intro/Action a resolution on this issue for the next Board meeting on Oct. 12th. 
Dear Directors,

I am writing to urge you to please have an Intro/Action item for next week's Board meeting about the bill in the City Council that would allow homeless people to camp just about anywhere including school property.  Here is a link to the bill.

You will see on the "Central Staff Memo" page 5 of 7 that they are only considering an option that would "exclude property by specified public entities, such as Seattle School District, UW," etc.  The legislation, as currently written, does NOT exclude school properties.

I mentioned this to Steve Nielsen at the last Executive Committee meeting and he said it was worrisome to the district.  I said I would like to think a homeless person would realize how inappropriate it would be to camp at a school playground and I don't think any school would like this kind of situation.  The district would not be able to easily get the person(s) to leave the property so that would be yet another issue.

Does the district really need one more issue to worry about?  I think helping to support and educate homeless students is the district's job but not worrying about homeless camping sites at schools.

I urge you to draft a resolution for next Wednesday that supports what CM Burgess is saying.  He is the lone CM who has said they are against this. 

I believe the City Council and the Mayor need to hear from you.


Anonymous said…
I think it's really important to make this ask of the City Council. This proposal is, at its core, a proposal to use public parks and public school fields to house the homeless, mostly in tents.

Is this the best way to solve the problem? I don't think it is. I certainly do not think it is at all appropriate for children to encounter needles or human waste or drunk people at their local park or playground or school.

I can already hear the responses - that I'm being unfair or cruel or heartless or misrepresenting the homeless population. But here's the truth: there *are* some homeless people who will drop needles on a playground. There *are* some homeless people who will leave their biological waste in places where kids can get at it. And there *are* some homeless people who will sit there drunk or harass women and children.

I am sympathetic to that. There are reasons for it - drug addiction, lack of bathroom facilities, and so on. The question isn't whether we treat homeless people with care and support, we must. It's *where do they sleep at night*? Should they sleep in your local park or school playfield? Is that the best way to provide shelter to people as we head into a cold winter? Or is the answer to find a larger space somewhere, like a building at Magnuson or a big parking lot or the vacant lot across the street from City Hall, where folks can camp rather than be in our parks?

One final word: there are some homeless people who sleep outside because of personal preference, because they'd rather be there than deal with the rules of shelters or with roommates. I understand that. But we as a community should not be under any obligation to cater to people who simply prefer to sleep outside. We should not feel an obligation to open our parks and schools to those folks.

Delridge Dad
Anonymous said…
This is so incredibly important. It's difficult to reconcile my desire to be compassionate for those struggling with homelessness, my anti-NIMBY nature and my deaire for safe and welcoming public spaces for all seattle residents. It seems like this legislation has been drafted to be divisive and to cause an uproar in what may appear to be a complacent community. The risk is changing complacency to animosity. Our city (and state) legislators need to take action - but this legislation will have lasting negative impacts on our city.

Anonymous said…
Delridge Dad- I could not agree more with your post, spot on.
Kate said…
Melissa, thank you again for bringing this issue forward. It is critical that the Council members hear loud and clear from the public that they do not support this legislation. From everything I have read, the Council has a majority to pass this legislation with some slight amendments - none of which are sufficient. There should be no encampments allowed on any public sidewalks, parks, school property, planting strips, etc Period.

Look around your neighborhood right now and see how many of these small encampments are popping up. If this legislation passes, you can expect them to remain.

Everyone should read the proposed legislation. Once an encampment of 5 or more people is established the city is required to provide services (trash disposal, portable toilets) and must pay $250 to each camper if they try to move them without meeting onerous requirements. It thereby creates a costly infrastructure to support encampments - funds that could be used to provide desperately needed mental health, addiction treatment and other services and housing.

And don't allow anyone to call you a NIMBY or some other name because you don't support having encampments in your neighborhood, or on your street, or in front of your house.

Write the Council today, and cc the Mayor!
alex said…
Emails sent to directors and the council. Thank you, Melissa. File this under..."Gee, what could possibly go wrong"?
Anonymous said…
Good to hear that the City Council is going to exclude school fields. But they need to justify their desire to start using public parks as homeless encampments. I don't support the current sweeps policy. However, that doesn't mean putting everyone in a park is the right answer either.

Delridge Dad
madpark said…
I see the Summary of the bill. Where do I see the bill in it's entirety?
I, too could not find it. But Herbold said a new version was to come out soon.
Watching said…
"If anyone is removed, the city government must provide “adequate and accessible” long-term housing. Finally, if any of this process is violated, the proposed law establishes a $250 penalty per violation to be paid to the individual camper by city taxpayers."

I see this as a system that is set-up for abuse. I would rather public funding place homeless youth or homeless families in housing.

Clearly, there are serious health and safety issues with this proposal. The health and safety of Seattle's citizens must be considered, as well. I have to stand with Burgess.
Anonymous said…
Why is Burgess the only one against this proposal? Wow! Okay, Burgess for Mayor, let's vote the rest out. This crosses the line. The money and energy should be used to support mental health organizations and drug abuse and addiction intervention.

Crazy Clowns
I'm done said…
Exactly why do I and my neighbors have to endure the problems of homelessness. I'm told I need to be compassionate when someone else does not want to follow the social norms of society. I don't care if they are a drug addict or have mental health problems, why about my rights as a taxpayer and productive member of society. I'm tired of garbage and humans worse in my neighborhood.
We need to find city or county land and say to the homeless, here is a safe, sanitary place to camp or sleep, that's it. Why do the made up rights of 2,700 homeless outweigh the rest of us.
I'm done said…
If you go to Tim Burgess comments he has a link to the legislation.
seattle citizen said…
I'm done,
Some homeless, of course, aren't drug addicts or people with mental health problems: they merely lost a job and had to go live in a car with their children.

But some are addicts. Some do have mental health issues.

I get what you're saying but it skates very close to "who cares about them?"

I'm curious: Can the homeless, including the mentally ill and drug addicts, live on the "safe, sanitary" city or county land you suggest in YOUR neighborhood?
Jet City mom said…
I volunteer at one of the outdoor preschools in a northend park, currently without camping, and Ive seen condoms & the detritus of drug use.
Can't imagine how safe & sanitary it will become if the city allows camping there.
Since the parks budget no longer allows for staffed visitor centers, how will it allow for increased maintainance?
WestSeattleDad said…
Here is map of the city spaces as posted by KING TV:
Anonymous said…
Walking around Greenlake today there is a tent on the edge of the lake by the trail on the west side. I really do not want homeless encampments in parks with kids and families. Will that be legal if/when this law passes? Or are encampments of 5 or more the only protected settlements? Is it safe? What neighborhood would determine its safety or lack of it?
Unknown said…
Since churchs receive tax benefits and claim they want to help, local churchs ought to allow homeless to sleep on their property. Many homeless people are mentally ill and some are on drugs. Where are the homeless going to use the bathroom or shower? Why on earth should children be exposed to this problem at school and churchs are not stepping up?
Anonymous said…
OneTwo, Many churches in Seattle have been housing homeless adults 365 night a year for many years through SHARE. Then SHARE had a 4 month closure/protest of all church shelters due to various complaints from their leader(s). They have recently reopened some of those shelters, not all of them, in conjunction with CCS who will provide some oversight of the finances.
Anonymous said…
Complaints against the City.
Anonymous said…
Danny Westneat has a good article in the Times about homeless encampments and how they failed in Portland after only 6 months - a complete disaster there. The recommendations put before the Seattle City Council come from lobbyist groups in favor of homeless encampments - not from research done or commissioned by the Seattle City Council. People need to come out against this proposal as currently written NOW - I believe it goes to vote on 10/14. So, if you don't want to see this city and your neighborhood over run by encampments, and if you want to see decent housing and services provided to homeless people, get involved now. I wrote each council member individually and the mayor and got replies from 3 of them. -NP
Unknown said…
Churches receive money for the homeless who sleep inside of them for those individuals do not have tents or personal items more than a bag or two. By early morning, they bus the homeless out to day centers where there is no sign of the homeless on church grounds during the rest of the day. If a homeless person has a tent, sleeping bag, cooking utensils, wardrobe, and other personal items, the church will not allow them to stay overnight unless the homeless person does not bring those items to church property.
Let churches allow the homeless to set-up semi-permanent tents on the church property outside, for free (no state reimbursement of funds), like they are asking of our children's schoolyards. Let churches allow the homeless, and all their personal items, to leave their items in the church yard all day long, like they are asking our children's schools.
Anonymous said…
One Two, Many churches have hosted Tent Cities, where they do actually live with their tents. Tent City three is out on 125th right now at a church.
Mrs. McCalamari said…

My son took a makeup test but today I received an email saying he had missed the makeup and had only one more opportunity to take the test. Has this mix up happened to anyone else? We received another family's test results last year so sadly not entirely surprised.


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