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Seattle council candidate on what he learned cleaning up a homeless encampment

A homeless encampment on public and private property near NW 46th Street in Seattle. (City of Seattle)

Homelessness is taking over parts of Seattle, and finding a long-term solution to getting people off the streets remains elusive. Over the weekend, a local group called Unified Seattle helped clean up Longfellow Creek forests in West Seattle. Brendan Kolding was there to help. He is a former LAPD lieutenant and a current candidate for the Seattle City Council.

“We had the opportunity to visit a couple of different vacated encampments actually right here in District 1 and actually not too far from where I live,” he said. “We took out trash, old beer bottles and old cartons of milk and most importantly we removed close to 100 needles, some of which still had heroin loaded up in them.”

Seeing this firsthand brought home for Kolding what he believes he needs to do both as a parent and council candidate.

“The first thing that goes to mind is as a parent is that my kids live in this area. I don’t want them encountering this. As a candidate, it’s that this is the product of failed leadership coming from city hall for many years, where we’ve allowed this situation to perpetuate to the point where you really can’t look under a tree anymore without finding this sort of thing.”

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“It’s not that all of our parks are completely unsafe. What I would recommend for children and their parents is to stay in open areas, stay on the lawn, stay where you can see what’s out there, and if there’s a needle hopefully you can avoid it.”

The latest homeless count for Seattle/King County showed that there are 11,199 people experiencing homelessness countywide. Of those counted, an estimated 2,451 individuals were in families with children, 1,089 were unaccompanied youth, 830 were veterans, and 32 percent were identified as people of color.

Conducted in January by Count Us In, the count is considered a snapshot of the region’s homelessness, done with the understanding that it’s not a comprehensive picture, and that the numbers are likely greater, as indicated by studies that are year-round in nature.

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“It’s gotten worse under this entire current council,” he said. “Because we’ve practiced the policy — and I give Chris Rufo credit for this — the policy of false compassion where we’re not holding people accountable, where we’re not investing in adequate services, where we’re not allowing our law enforcement professionals to do their job.”

“We just need a sea change at City Hall. We need to reverse the culture because it’s only getting worse … We can offer them treatment and shelter and then insist that if they don’t accept services, we will enforce the law unless they choose to move along. We need both carrot and stick.”

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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