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Council proposes limiting removal of homeless camps during COVID-19

Homeless encampments in Ballard. (Photo courtesy of listener Rob Harwood)

Members of the Seattle City Council are hoping to limit the removal of homeless encampments during the COVID-19 pandemic. The new proposal would amend the current budget so money could not be used to remove camps unless there is a public health reason to do so.

Councilmember Tammy Morales introduced a bill co-sponsored by councilmembers Kshama Sawant and Teresa Mosqueda to restrict the removal of unsanctioned homeless encampments for the duration of the COVID-19 crisis. They would need enough votes from the council and the support of Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as Morales cited, has warned that removing camps could disperse homeless people into the community and has the potential to increase the transmission of COVID-19 or other diseases.

A Ballard homeless camp at the center of a hepatitis outbreak was removed earlier this month.

Seattle removes unsanctioned encampment at Ballard Commons

Seattle’s Navigation Team has been distributing hygiene kits and offering shelter to individuals staying at homeless camps throughout the COVID-19 outbreak. The public health department has been installing hygiene stations, handing out information and flyers, and coordinating vaccines as needed.

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