Council member defends Seattle’s homeless RV plan

Jan 20, 2016, 12:32 PM | Updated: 1:25 pm
Don O'Neill visited the Ballard site that will be converted into an RV park. (Don O'Neill, KIRO Rad...
Don O'Neill visited the Ballard site that will be converted into an RV park. (Don O'Neill, KIRO Radio)
(Don O'Neill, KIRO Radio)

A few weeks prior to Mayor Murray’s announcement to create two safe lots for homeless people living in cars and RVs, there was a public meeting in Magnolia on the topic that brought in hundreds of attendees. Seattle City Council member Sally Bagshaw was in attendance and says that, while there were concerns, her constituents recognize the homeless problem around the city and want to help, which is why she “absolutely” supports the mayor’s plan.

“I will tell you … if you live or work in Seattle everybody recognizes there are more people who are un-sheltered in Seattle but it’s not just here,” she told KIRO Radio’s Jason Rantz. “It’s Seattle, it’s King County wide it’s Portalnd, Eugene, the West Coast.”

Related: Tiny homes: Another remedy to Seattle’s homeless crisis

The two proposed sites are in Ballard, at the Yankee Diner parking lot at Shilshole Avenue NW and 24th Avenue NW, and the Glass Yard lot at West Marginal Way and Highland Park Way SW for the Delridge site.

Rantz wonders why the Ballard location is near an apartment complex and multiple businesses. He asked whether the community was given the opportunity to say yes or no to the chosen location, because that wasn’t the case when the tent cities were created.

“The folks overwhelmingly seemed to say, ‘It’s not like we don’t want to help people, but this is the wrong spot,’ and nobody seemed to listen to them,” Rantz said.
Bagshaw says the evaluations and conversations about placements started a year ago.

“I think there’s been so much conversation about the where’s and the when’s,” she said. “We started off actually a full year ago evaluating spaces and evaluating spaces for encampments, potential spaces for people to be RVs. So now the mayor made an announcement … This will provide a space where people can go &#8212 cars, campers, RVs &#8212 that will not be in residential areas where there will be dumpsters and (sanitation) cans for people to use, so it’s a real public health model and you bet I support it.”

Rantz asked about why Ballard seems to be getting the brunt of these encampments, but Bagshaw says she’s hearing the same things from neighbors of SoDo, Southeast Seattle, and Georgetown.

“People are saying, ‘We are taking more than of our fair share,'” Bagshaw said. “What my objective would be is let’s recognize that Seattle’s got to expand and invite our King County neighbors to also help. The good news is they are.”

Bagshaw says she’d want to hear the concerns of what is bothering her constituents and tell help them recognize that, for most people living in their cars, this is their last asset. Dealing drugs from the RVs, she says, is a different story.

“Dealing drugs is criminal activity and needs to be addressed,” she said. “We cannot let meth labs be hanging out in people’s next door neighbor’s yard.”

Rantz says the facts are that these kinds of encampments can draw an unsavory crowd.

“The fact is these communities will attract certain homeless elements who may not make it into the community because they’re suffering from mental illness and not getting treated and they stay in the neighborhood so it brings the comfort significantly down,” he said.

Bagshaw says she sees and hears the screaming and gunshots where she lives downtown, and there’s no encampments nearby. While she believes the city needs more help from legislators and the feds to improve treatment for those suffering from mental illness or drug addiction, the others can be taken care of by police.

“This is awful and this is the kind of bad behavior … that we hire police to attend to,” she said. “Criminal activity needs to be dealt with through our criminal courts.”

Bagshaw says the Seattle Police Department has started an emphasis, particularly in the Ballard and Magnolia neighborhoods, but that it’s important to separate the criminals from homeless people living out of their vehicles.

“That’s a big difference I think from people who are at their last survival mode and that’s where I think these encampments and these safe parking lots can really help,” she said.

Jason Rantz on AM 770 KTTH
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Council member defends Seattle’s homeless RV plan