On Monday, Sally Bagshaw was part of the City Council majority that voted to approve Mayor Ed Murray’s plan to evict all campers in the Jungle. Tomorrow at 2 p.m., her Human Services and Public Health committee will consider a bill authored by homeless advocates that would would stop such evictions around the city unless there is somewhere else for the campers to go. While Bagshaw’s office says she doesn’t expect a vote on the bill itself tomorrow, there are several amendments that will likely be voted on.
Bagshaw insists that she is not supporting homeless sweeps. The resolution she and council passed on Monday is “certainly not a pro-sweeps approach,” she says. “What we’re trying to do now is pulling together a community group to stop the sweeps and have some procedures to find people someplace to be. We declare that some spaces are going to be unsuitable for camping, and then provide people space and not chase them around…I’m working as hard as I can to get these sweeps stopped.”
— Casey Jaywork (@CaseyJaywork) September 27, 2016
But despite Monday’s vote, Bagshaw says she wants to get an amended version of the advocates’ bill, penned by the state ACLU and Columbia Legal Services, passed by the end of October. One of her concerns is that as written, the bill would put too much responsibility on the city’s shoulders for dealing humanely with each homeless person. ACLU, CLS, and the Public Defender Association have been meeting with representatives of the Downtown Seattle Association and the Alliance for Pioneer Square in recent days to try and amend the bill to something that’s acceptable to everyone, though advocates have told me that those talks aren’t progressing.
As we’ve reported previously, the advocates’ bill only allows the city to evict encampments under two conditions. One is if the campers turn down an offer of “adequate and accessible” and immediately available housing. The other is if the encampment is especially dangerous (say, on a ledge above the I-5), in which case the city has to direct them to a “nearby, alternative location.” In effect, the policy abolishes homeless encampment evictions per se, insead allowing only relocations.
The advocates’ bill would also direct Dept. of Neighborhoods director Kathy Nyland to come up with a list of city-owned properties “suitable for unsanctioned encampments or vehicle parking.” It would require thirty days’ notice before relocation and an offer of “adequate and accessible housing,” unless clearly defined “public safety and health emergency” criteria are met. In that case, campers get at least 48 hours notice. It would clarify the city’s notoriously uncharitable rules for storing and returning valuable property seized from encampments. If the city breaks these rules while evicting someone, Seattle’s liable to that evictee for $250 plus damages. The bill also tries to address concerns about the effects of an encampment on the surrounding neighborhood: “For the benefit of all City residents, the City has an interest in preventing the build-up of garbage, human waste, and other refuse at outdoor living spaces and other public spaces,” the bill draft reads. To this end, the bill requires the city to investigate complained-about sites for imminent public health or safety threats, like used needles or mounds of poop.
“I’m pushing the mayor’s office to open more sanctioned encampments,” says Bagshaw. “They may not be great and a lot of people don’t want to go there, but we’ve got to start somewhere. We can’t just scoot them around.”
But you helped pass Monday’s resolution in favor of the mayor’s Jungle plan. Isn’t that just scooting campers around?
“The resolution is a resolution. The ordinance we’re passing is an ordinance,” she says, referring to the advocates’ bill. “The ordinance trumps.”