The Seattle attorney who spent three years as public safety adviser for Mayor Ed Murray disagrees with a lawsuit that alleges the city’s approach to homelessness, including clearing camps, is unconstitutional.
The ACLU filed a class action lawsuit against the city and the Washington State Department of Transportation in January. The organization argues the city and WSDOT violated the rights of people living outside by seizing their property and sometimes throwing that property away.
“Imagine if government agents came to your home and carted away everything you own, without any warning and without telling you how to get back whatever they didn’t throw out,” said ACLU-WA Legal Director Emily Chiang. “For people living outdoors in Seattle, this horrifying scenario is too often a reality – and has been so for years.”
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Years ago, the city conducted sweeps that Lindsay says weren’t “productive.” However, the city, he says, came up with a plan to clean out dangerous encampments while also getting people into shelter and treatment programs for those that need them.
In the past three months, according to Lindsay, about 200 people have been provided shelter and nearly 200 have accepted services.
“The City of Seattle, right now, provides the most comprehensive response to people living in encampments,” Lindsay said.
Lindsay credits — at least partially — the Navigation team that was created a few months ago for the success the city has had with tackling the homeless crisis. About two months in, the Navigation Team was having about a 50 percent success rate for getting people into services and shelter, according to Mayor Murray.
Lindsay says the lawsuit filed by ACLU is still in court. The court initially declined the organization’s motion for a temporary restraining order against the city.
“We cannot criminalize homelessness, but from a public safety and health perspective, we do have a lot of homeless people who are interfacing with the criminal justice system and struggling with addiction,” Lindsay said.
Listen to the entire conversation with Lindsay below.