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Rantz: Parents sound alarm as needles, human waste collect near Seattle schools

The impacts of homelessness in the city has fed up thousands of Seattleites, enough for them to beg for help with cleaning their neighborhoods of used needles and human waste, according to a review of 2018 and 2019 data from the city’s Find It, Fix It app.

Parents, in particular, are sounding alarms.

“As a mother of two boys living in North Ballard, gone are the days where my children can roam freely around our neighborhood,” laments parent and Speak Out Seattle activist Erika Nagy to the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH. “I grew up here, in Ballard actually, and for all the people that say we’ve ‘always had issues,’ that is an utter false narrative.”

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Seattle’s Find It, Fix It app tracks residents’ complaints about everything from graffiti and trash to improperly dumped RVs and clogged storm drains. Out of the 77,428 submissions last year, thousands directly relate to used needles, with many impacting local schools.

One resident by Hamlin Robinson School near Judkins Park complains of an “Abandoned camper with trash and needles around the area. There is a school across the street and I have seen homeless come in and out of it using drugs.”

Another resident complained of a broken down RV with needles strewn around near Viewlands Elementary School in Northwest Seattle. “…I have seen homeless come in and out of it [the RV] using drugs,” the user complains.

Near Olympic Hills elementary in Lake City, someone found two used needles, writing “SCHOOL KIDS USE THESE STAIRS!”

A parent at John Stanford International School, a few minutes east of the UW, complained of “5 shopping carts barricading the pedestrian stairwell. My kids walk to school on this path and people are shooting up and leaving needles here and the garbage and smell of urine is disgusting! The shopping carts are going to cause an accident when they roll down the stairwell into traffic.”

Some aren’t just alarmed at what they’re finding near schools, but the action of the homeless nearby.

A few blocks from the Meridian School in Wallingford, one resident complained of used needles on the ground. “Seattle has failed me,” the person writes. “The person just went to the adjacent gas station and masturbated in the bushes.”

Another complaint literally begs for help as they spotted a run down RV and used needles near the Hilltop Children’s Center in North Queen Anne. The user saw the homeless man “carrying a knife. Please help! Kids play there and someone is going to get hurt. It’s just not a safe place for someone to shoot up.”

“Under a pedestrian overpass, which many of the school kids use to walk to school safely, there is a man who has been living underneath, collecting stolen bikes, harassing kids as they walk to and from school, invading the space so much so that the children are walking onto Holman road (major arterial) to walk around his ‘belongings,’” Nagy tells KTTH.

For Nagy, the problems have taken a toll on her neighborhood.

“I do not even allow my children to walk to the neighborhood stores, as the Whittier Heights women village is nearby, and now the drug dealers and pimps have moved into the neighborhood, selling to woman of the village and prostituting them for money for their drug habits,” she says. “Nothing is hidden, this is done in the middle of the day within plain sight because they know the city won’t do anything about it.”

The Find It, Fix It app has made it easy to report these everyday observations with 37,135 users (as defined by unique mobile devices downloading the app) sending a complaint. And the image it paints of Seattle is startling.

Taking some of the place of complaints normally phoned in, the app reports have increased significantly over the last few years: 2014 (18,846 reports), 2015 (27,551), 2016 (38,852), 2017 (55,428), 2018 (77,428).

It’s hard to track how the city responds to the individual complaints, as they can be routed through different departments that track responses differently. From my positive experiences using the app, and hearing from other users and some city sources, some complaints are immediately addressed. Others are not. Even after some of the sites are cleaned up, it’s not uncommon for the homeless to return and the mess to reappear.

The tone of some of these complaints — a mix of anger and desperation — suggests resident are losing their patience as the city tackles the growing homeless problem.

Naveed Jamali is a local parent. Last year, his four year old and six your old kids found needles and a used condom on Seattle’s waterfront. It was one of the moments that propelled him to run for Seattle City Council in District 7.

“As a parent I’d like to have the same standard for city government as I do for my kids: honesty. It’s obvious when we see used needles what is happening, so why not just be honest with us?” Jamali told the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH. “It’s not just the lack of resolution (we understand these are big problems) it’s the lack of candor and honesty that pisses me off.”

Indeed, after the KOMO TV special Seattle Is Dying, Mayor Jenny Durkan dismissed it as “limited” in what it showed.

“I think if you went to any neighborhood in Seattle today and told the story from Alki to Seward Park, up north to Seattle Center, you’re going to see a city that’s thriving with people who care, that’s welcoming and diverse,” she claimed. It was shockingly clueless and delusional.

“I keep asking what we are waiting for to take serious action,” Nagy wonders.

Many others wonder the same thing.

Listen to the Jason Rantz Show 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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