City officials announce yesterday evening that Seattle will open three new homeless encampments in Licton Springs, Georgetown, and Southwest Seattle. A fourth future encampment hasn’t been sited yet.
According to a Human Services Department press release, the three encampments will open by early 2017 and will host more than 200 people. Thousands of unsheltered people sleep on Seattle and King County every night, and have for many years. Last year, Mayor Ed Murray announced a formal state of civil emergency around homelessness, and has begun long-term projects to improve both the homeless emergency services system and the larger housing affordability crisis in Seattle. Critics call the former (Pathways Home) unrealistic and the latter (HALA) inadequate, though poor people’s advocates are quick to acknowledge a lot of good in both. In recent years, city leaders and their loyal staffers have taken no small amount of grief from both sides of the debate over how poorly the city should treat homeless people.
From the press release:
“In October, Mayor Murray announced the Bridging the Gap plan, which recognizes that the City should not displace unauthorized encampments that do not pose an imminent health or safety risk or do not unlawfully obstruct a public use, unless the City can offer those living there a safer alternative place to live. The plan reflects the principles laid out by the Task Force on Unsheltered Cleanup Protocols.”
That last line is a reference to a task force Murray convened to make recommendations about whether and how homeless encampment evictions should occur. The task force’s main finding was that they weren’t sure what the city should do. As Erica C. Barnett has reported, they recommended such “guiding principals” as “action must be taken to enhance and reform the effectiveness of our human services system” and “do no more harm.”
The establishment of these three sites, plus a fourth that hasn’t been sited yet (per the Times’ Dan Beekman), will bring the total number of city-sponsored homeless encampments in Seattle to seven. That’s in addition to legal church sponsored encampments, a quazi-city-sponsored encampment outside the Jungle, and innumerable illegal encampments.
The Licton Springs site is located in District 5, represented by Debora Juarez. The North Seattle councilmember said in her own press release that she welcomes the encampment, which should open around March:
“At a time when over 2,000 people are unsheltered in the city, now is the time to show compassion and determination to find stable solutions. The City Council is investing money and resources into identifying our long term solution with the Pathways Home effort, and this project will be our immediate response to the immediate needs while we focus on the long term changes.” Juarez said the time between now and then “gives us time to have conversations and address questions from the community. I hope you will join me in welcoming this new opportunity to District 5.”
Here are the new encampments’ details:
1. 1000 S Myrtle Street in Georgetown will contain up to 50 tiny houses serving 60-70 people.
2. 8620 Nesbit Ave N. in Licton Springs, just north of Green Lake, will contain up to 50 tiny houses serving 60-70 people.
3. 9701 Myers Way S on the edge of White Center will contain up to 50 tents serving 60-70 people.
The first two will be administered by LIHI with Nickelsville and SHARE. Here’s a map: