The remains of a fire at the Field homeless encampment in February. Photo via Cory Potts.

Councilmembers Ask Mayor to Hold Off On Eviction of ‘The Field’

Several city councilmembers are asking the mayor to give homeless campers a week to clean things up.

This afternoon, four of the Seattle City Council’s nine members asked Mayor Ed Murray to postphone tomorrow’s scheduled eviction of a homeless encampment in SoDo by one week, to give campers a chance to ameliorate the public health and safety problems that have plagued the camp.

Kshama Sawant, Mike O’Brien, Debora Juarez and Rob Johnson each said this afternoon that they will sign a letter asking the mayor to delay the eviction of the Field, a homeless encampment at Airport Way S. and Royal Brougham. The eviction is scheduled for tomorrow, per notices posted at the campsite. Two more councilmembers, M. Lorena González and Lisa Herbold, say they’re on the fence, pending more information from the Seattle/King County Public Health department. Both will make a decision by 5 p.m.

The Field originated as a spillover colony for homeless campers whom authorities evicted from the Jungle (an archipelago of homeless encampments beneath and along I-5) last year, and since then it’s served as a dumping ground for homeless evictees across the city. Multiple underage teenage girls were allegedly raped by two men inside the camp, and the site is crawling with rats. City officials have offered overnight shelter beds to campers, but do not have an alternative location available.

We’ll update this post when we learn more. Stay tuned.

UPDATE Neither González nor Herbold will sign Sawant’s letter, based on the advice of Patty Hayes, director of Seattle/King County Public Health. Heyes sent an email to the council just minutes before end of business today, which reads in part:

“It is the opinion of Public Health that the Royal Brougham / Airport Way site cannot be properly abated for rodents until the site is first evacuated and cleaned up of all wastes. This is based on best practices for the health and safety of the residents, the cleanup crews and surrounding community. The significant amounts of trash, human waste and used needles at the Royal Brougham / Airport Way site serves as a constant food source and harborage for rodents and safety risk for cleanup crews. Until this site is cleaned up and the trash cleared away, any type of rodent control or abatement measures would not be effective.”

Hayes’ letter did not address the question of where displaced campers will go. You can see the letter that Sawant, O’Brien, Juarez and Johnson sent to the mayor here.

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