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Rantz: Days after cleanup, homeless return to dangerous Seattle encampment

(Tom Amato, KTTH)

It hasn’t even been a full week, but a previously-cleared homeless encampment is returning to a north Seattle neighborhood.

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The encampment, off of I-5 in Northgate, has been a constant problem for nearby businesses and residents. One resident allegedly threatened to pepper spray a nearby businessman. Another nearby employee was reportedly punched in the face after confronting a homeless man stealing a car. Finally, on the morning on January 10, Seattle’s Navigation Team came by — after 72 hours notice — to clean up the area of dangerous debris and offer services to people camping there.

Only one of the approximately 10 homeless individuals accepted an offer of services, even though there were beds available for everyone on site.

The encampment was cleared, but now at least one tent is back up. More are likely to follow. While the Navigation Team has been working hard to clean up the encampments, they quickly reappear.

“It is not uncommon for the team to see the same people living unsheltered at new or returning encampments across the city,” Will Lemke, Navigation Team spokesperson, told the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH. “There are countless factors to why people do not accept shelter or return to an area that was recently cleared. Regardless, the team will continue to remove encampments that pose public health and safety concerns and try everything they can to get people the help they need to get out of homelessness.”

The City of Seattle’s lax enforcement means that most of the homeless know that they can just come back to the exact same spot to camp out — or move just a few blocks away. And if the Navigation Team pushes too aggressively to clean up these encampments, and get vulnerable people into shelter, they seem to have activists and council members to contend with.

Councilmember Kshama Sawant has leaked clean-up schedules to professional activists so they can interfere. Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda tried to severely cut funding to the Navigation Team.

From what I can tell, there’s growing frustration with nonprofits, city workers, and officers who are trying to connect those experiencing homelessness with services. Some parts of the city are covered with everything from litter to human waste, or stolen, useless bike parts, and used needles. Indeed, blocks away from the encampment, at the Northgate Mall, a woman claims she was stuck with a dirty needle. This seems to betray the idea that we cherish the environment around here.

“It gets old,” one city worker told me. “We are trying to address it head on and we have people who just discovered homelessness as an issue and want to drop in and tell us what’s up.”

Perhaps it’s time to let the professionals do their jobs?

Listen to the Jason Rantz Show, at his new time, weekday afternoons from 3-6 p.m. on KTTH 770 AM (or HD Radio 97.3 FM HD-Channel 3). Subscribe to the podcast here.

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