Seattle Public Schools sets new timeline for clearing Bitter Lake homeless camp

Nov 2, 2021, 3:37 PM | Updated: 3:51 pm
North Seattle Bitter Lake encampment...
Encampment on Bitter Lake (KTTH’s Jason Rantz Show)
(KTTH’s Jason Rantz Show)

After months of delays, Seattle Public Schools has now established a timeline for the removal of a Bitter Lake homeless encampment.

Formerly homeless ‘first time fliers’ signal gradual removal of North Seattle encampment

The encampment has sat in a park neighboring Broadview K-8 for roughly six months, having been a flashpoint for parents and residents since it first appeared.

Over the course of two months during the spring, the school was put on lockdown at least twice — once in April after a firearm sighting, which turned out to be a pellet gun and led to no injuries, and again in May after a worker saw someone inside that he didn’t think should be in the school. There was also an overdose at the encampment. The man survived.

Seattle Public Schools erected a steel barricade between the encampment and Broadview-Thomson K-8 in August, while hiring a security detail, WDC Safety Team, affiliated with the Public Defender Association’s case management program CoLEAD.

In July, SPS indicated that it intended to have the encampment cleared by Sept. 1. That plan was put on hold in late-August, with the district stating its belief that simply clearing campers out without ensuring they were moved into housing was “not a sustainable solution to the problem at the Bitter Lake encampment.” That delay was further driven by the belief that more outreach work was needed.

Seattle School Board leaders have been adamant in their opposition to sweeping campers out of the area without first ensuring they’ll be able to place them in available shelters. That was outlined in a joint statement from Board President Chandra Hampson and Director Zachary DeWolf in early April, where they said that sweeps should “NEVER be performed on school grounds, adjacent or elsewhere in this City.”

Opinion: Seattle homeless camp sweeps are built to fail

Now, the plan is to “fully transition the Bitter Lake encampment residents to shelter or housing by mid-December.”

“Thanks to our partnership with the City of Seattle, King County and Anything Helps, outreach teams have begun moving people into shelter or housing,” SPS Assistant Superintendent Bev Redmond told MyNorthwest. “Those efforts will increase by the middle of this month as new shelter resources become available.”

MyNorthwest reporter Dalton Day contributed to this story

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Seattle Public Schools sets new timeline for clearing Bitter Lake homeless camp