Sunday, June 06, 2021

Homeless Camp Update

 It appears the volume is going higher on the situation at Broadview-Thomson K-8 over the homeless encampment on district property next to the school.

Here comes this article from the Urbanist where most of the candidates for mayor weigh in. Bruce Harrell, who did spend a lot of time on the Seattle City Council and knew about homeless issues then, weighs in:

Former Seattle City Council President Bruce Harrell held a mayoral campaign event Friday in front of a homeless camp on a playfield at Broadview-Thomson K-8 School in Bitter Lake. Harrell avoid the word “sweep” or “camp removal” but still argued the homeless people shouldn’t be camped there.
As Harrell was delivering his remarks, a group of incensed locals interrupted him and demanded removal of the encampment, which they associated with needles, human waste, and crime, KING 5 reported. 

Harrell says:
“It is both inappropriate and inhumane for the City of Seattle to expect a school district working overtime to educate and support 54,000 students to hire, train, and bring to scale a homelessness outreach and services program,” Harrell said in a statement. 
Then we learn that Mayor Jenny Durkan does have the ability to handle these actions as she closed another encampment in Ravenna recently where someone living at a camp had been shot to death. But while Durkan wants SPS to clean up their own issues, she slyly put in terms for her own service providers to be part of sweeps.
On Friday, Mayor Jenny Durkan did oversee a sweep of an Olga Park encampment in Ravenna, which was spurred by the murder of one of the campers by someone who lived elsewhere. However, in the case of the Broadview-Thomson playfield, Mayor Durkan has sought to foist responsibility onto Seattle Public Schools (SPS). She has been ramping up pressure on SPS to stand up their own Navigation Team equivalent in order to conduct homeless outreach and disperse encampments from its properties. Durkan has also been pushing service providers to participate in sweeps and belatedly snuck terms in contracts obligating them to so, before backing down from these strong arm tactics earlier this week, Erica C. Barnett reported. 
One candidate, Casey Sixkiller, who is deputy mayor, was loyal to Durkan:

Deputy Mayor Casey Sixkiller, who is also in the crowded mayoral field, argued SPS had failed and was to blame, echoing his boss. Sixkiller and Durkan have argued SPS should spend its reserves to fund homelessness services, which drew the ire of school boardmember Liza Rankin.

Seriously? The Mayor thinks the district should go to its reserves to move the encampment? As I reported elsewhere, the reserves are lower than the normal 4-6% at this point in time. Using that money for this effort would put the district in a terrible place.

That being said, we continue to be open and wiling (sic)to partner with any and everyone who wants to support the district in the compassionate rehousing of people in our community who deserve much better,” Rankin added.

And while I agree with Rankin’s stand over using SPS reserves, the blah, blah, blah from both sides on “partnering” without actually doing something is getting tiresome.

Meanwhile, someone who works at Broadview-Thomson has stepped up. This from My Northwest:

A staff member at Seattle’s Broadview-Thomson K-8 filed a complaint with the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries over the dangerous encampment on Seattle Public Schools property. The complaint notes the encampment poses a safety hazard because of weapons, drugs, and violence.

SPS responded by claiming they’re unaware of “any credible reports indicating weapons, drugs, or fighting present” at Broadview-Thomson school grounds. It even claimed that SPS hasn’t “permitted or authorized camping on its property.”

Benjamin Coulter, the Assistant Manager of Safety and Security at SPS, claimed to L&I that they’re unaware of any of the concerns over weapons, drugs, and violence “on school grounds.”

I think SPS is treading on thin ice here because I’d bet in the numerous times that SFD has had to come out, their reports probably mention fighting or drugs. We know there was a guy with a pellet gun.

What’s a new twist in the SPS letter to the L&I is that the district now says initially the camp was on City property but that “maintenance” in the area forced the campers to the SPS property. In that way, the district can say it IS the City’s problem.

The Seattle Times weighed in back in April 2021:

Perhaps Hampson and DeWolf feel they’re driving change, bulldozing through levels of bureaucracy. They’re actually creating chaos, disempowering the people with direct authority and real insight into the situation, and squandering time and energy rather than focusing on their own important work.

The district has a brand-new superintendent in the form of Brent Jones. Can’t HE step up a broker a deal to get this done? Are neighbors going to live with this through the summer? All this puffery and posturing helps no one. Where’s the leadership? 


Anonymous said...

The Olga Park clean up was ultimately a “sweep,” which SPS hasn’t given permission to do. The obvious solution is to sweep the the camp from SPS and let the City provide services elsewhere. Thousands of homeless in this city with very limited housing to offer. Olga was swept because the City decided that 70 calls in 6 months and a murder in the neighborhood met the threshold of overly burdensome on the surrounding community.

Maybe if SEA/employees get involved something will actually get done?

Balancing Test

Melissa Westbrook said...

Balancing Test, well, an employee HAS gotten involved with that L&I complaint. I’m a bit surprised at the quiet from the SEA.

What I think might help is parents/neighbors asking a court for emergency help in forcing someone in leadership to actually do something.

Anonymous said...

The problem is that the city sweeps without giving people a place to go. This is *the* core problem with how homelessness is managed in Seattle. None of us want to see tents. I don't want to see tents. But until the city steps up and provides a place for people to go who are currently in tents...you'll see people in tents somewhere.

Most of the people at Bitter Lake wound up there after a sweep somewhere else.

I think Hampson/DeWolf are not being very helpful here and don't appear to be seeking solutions. But neither is Durkan. The city has the money to provide a place for people living at Bitter Lake to go. But they won't spend that money. Until they do, then the problem doesn't go away. They can sweep Bitter Lake and then the tents will show up near some other school, as they have for the last 5 years. At some point we all have to accept the fact that the only answer is to provide a roof and a room.

Actual Solutions

Anonymous said...

Actual Solutions

You dismiss the real impacts of the encampment on this Title 1 school community. Private schools would not stand for this. We cannot fix poverty or capitalism, but we can create a safer school environment for these students and families by moving the encampment elsewhere to get this thing sorted through.

Balancing Test

NE Parent said...

We must start by admitting that for many of the players this is a game. What is unfortunate is that Directors Hampson and DeWolf and others at SPS are now using students as pawns.

We have a subset of homeless advocates that want to make the problem as painful as possible for the public so that the public gives up and provides additional funds.

We have a subset of homeless people that will pick up and move to whatever city provides the best set of free services.

We have a subset of the homeless that are from the area that have real problems and that are totally deserving of our empathy and help.

We have a subset of neighborhoods and schools that will rarely if ever see any homeless because they are occupied by the connected, educated, elected, and well-off.

We have a subset of government employees and officials that realize that if the city provides rent-free downtown apartments to anyone putting up a tent on the sidewalk, in a public park, or on school grounds, that the number of “homeless” people in Seattle will never end and they won’t be able to pay for their other priorities.

We have the public cheering on all sides.

Yes, we need to be compassionate, but we also must realize that there will always be a balancing act and there will always be tension as this game plays out over many years. What Directors Hampson and DeWolf have done is to change the rules by adding students and schools as new players. I believe that regardless of what side you support, what Hampson and DeWolf have done is wrong.

But on second thought, I live in a neighborhood with a public park that hasn't had any homeless tents. And my kid's public school is not Tier 1 and has not had any homeless tents. So go Team Hampson and Dewolf!

Anonymous said...

There have been 2 deaths and one near-death at the encampment in Bitterlake this year due to overdoses. It's shameful for the district to pretend drugs are not a problem. The last one happened a few days ago. He was the person who was interviewed on Komo news about a month ago who didn't agree with what the city was doing by allowing campers on school grounds.