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Tom Shillue

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Seattle hiding details on homeless encampment for drug abusers

Soon, a low-barrier homeless encampment will be nestled between brand new apartment buildings and over a dozen restaurants and businesses.

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Drugs and alcohol will be allowed in the tiny home community in the South Lake Union neighborhood and the City of Seattle is hiding details of the encampment, dragging their feet in answering questions from the media and neighbors.

I happen to be both a media member and neighbor impacted. I live near the parking lot that will be turned into an encampment.

For days, the City of Seattle has been slow at answering some basic questions about a planned meeting that may occur May 31, where city officials will unveil their plan to the neighborhood. I came across a flyer that one business received in the area of the future encampment. The business passed it around, but Seattle officials have not unveiled it in any meaningful way to the neighborhood.

Initially, when I called the city, they told me they had no record of the meeting. It’s not listed on their website either. Then, hours later, I was told the meeting may or may not be taking place on May 31 and that I should keep checking back to find the status of the meeting. Nonsense. The onus is suddenly on residents to keep calling back to find out if a meeting is scheduled?

Then, I tracked down the main contact for the meeting. She’s avoided answering me directly. When I asked Karen Ko with Seattle’s Department of Neighborhoods if the meeting was happening, she replied a day later, that she passed my question on to staff. Which staff is she asking? Why is this so difficult to confirm?

I followed up when I never heard back. She’s got another day to respond. I’m not asking unreasonable questions. If she does not, I’ll ask your help on my radio show by giving you her direct line and email address. Perhaps they’ll answer questions when you flood her office with calls and emails.

I’m not the only media member being blown off. Linzi Sheldon at KIRO 7 has been tracking this story for weeks and has been getting the runaround from the city.

Sheldon was, however, able to confirm some details of the encampment via the Low Income Housing Institute.

The encampment will include between 40 and 50 tiny homes, with drugs and alcohol allowed on site. So a stone’s throw away from a major hotel, thousands of new apartment buildings, a dozen restaurants, coffee shops, and other businesses, the city deemed it appropriate to have drug abusers and alcoholics camped out?

This isn’t in the best interest of the homeless population. This was a symbolic move by the city to integrate and “normalize” addicts into our communities as a giant “Screw you!” to those they perceive to be NIMBYs, while not actually helping these people at all. They’re doing this to anger the community, then chastise them when they express their valid concerns. It’s a strategy to silence opposition. But they don’t even have the guts to ask our input before moving forward with their plan.

Unlike most people who support these encampments, I’ve actually lived across the street from one, when I lived in Upper Queen Anne and a tent city was set up at Seattle Pacific University some years ago.

In addition to being dirty and loud, it was dangerous. In the middle of the night, for about two weeks, a man would wander our alleyway, screaming at the top of his lungs the worst vulgar insult you can level at someone.

These encampments attract people who don’t end up getting in, but they don’t leave the neighborhoods. They stay and cause problems. The ones who accuse concerned residents paying upwards of $2,200 a month, without the expectation that we’ll live near a spot enabling deadly addictions, have never lived anywhere near an encampment. As a neighbor, am I categorically against tiny house community? Not if there’s security 24/7 and clear rules — and community buy-in. But this is a low barrier encampment. It’s dangerous and immoral. If the city wants to move these in, perhaps they can be set up next to the lawmakers behind these decisions.

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