Activists block weekend homeless camp removal outside Seattle City Hall
Seattle city workers have removed at least dozen homeless camps across the city in 2022, but had their most recent efforts thwarted over the weekend.
The city had hoped to remove a pair of homeless encampments on Fourth Avenue between James and Columbia in front of City Hall on Sunday, posting a notice two days prior. Activists with a group known as Stop the Sweeps Seattle sought to prevent the sweep, calling on advocates to “show up and push back” on the removal, and to “bring signs and mutual aid supplies.”
By Sunday, several advocates showed up to block city workers from clearing the encampments, holding the area for hours and refusing to allow outreach workers in to conduct the removal.
Many of those living in tents along the street claimed that the city has failed to offer housing alternatives amid its recent uptick in camp removals. Over the weekend, shelter referrals were not offered for the Fourth Avenue removal, with outreach workers reportedly telling campers that social workers are not available on Sundays.
“Why can’t they just put us into permanent housing or a motel?” one resident posited in an interview with KIRO 7 TV. “That way they won’t see us out in these streets anymore on the sidewalk.”
This comes in the wake of a new initiative announced last week by Mayor Bruce Harrell, backed by $10 million in donations from local companies like Amazon, Starbucks, and Microsoft. That money will fund a team of 30 outreach workers operating from within the King County Regional Homelessness Authority, which will be tasked with providing homeless campers with end-to-end services to get them into permanent housing.
That said, the initiative’s goal to reduce the number of people living in tents in downtown Seattle also necessitates the need for up to 2,000 new permanent supportive housing units, and does not provide additional funding toward that end. The city has ramped up its encampment clearances in the meantime, prioritizing the removal of tents from public rights of way like sidewalks and parks.
For the camps that remain outside City Hall, Stop the Sweeps Seattle plans to continue to maintain its presence in the area Monday morning, “demanding comprehensive, non-coercive services for unhoused community members.”