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Homeless advocate argues Seattle’s camping proposal with Dori

City officials in Seattle say they will no longer use state corrections crews for homeless encampment cleanups after the city’s Human Rights Commission raised concerns over the use of prison labor. (AP)
LISTEN: Lisa Daugaard on homeless solutions

The Seattle City Council accepted an ordinance drafted by advocate groups that will dramatically alter how the city deals with homeless encampments. It has caused a rift in Seattle’s support to solve its homeless crisis.

“This is not about where people should be living in public,” Lisa Daugaard told KIRO Radio’s Dori Monson. “This is how can we refocus the attention of policy makers and public leaders in this community on the question of how are we going to get to the point where nobody is living in public.”

ACLU homeless ordinance accepted by Seattle City Council

Daugaard is director of the Public Defender Association. She lands on the side of the proposed ordinance, which would allow people to camp in public spaces throughout Seattle.

In short, the ordinance would only allow city officials to oust people from an encampment if it is interfering with public use. The city must provide at least 48 hours notice of the eviction and find the residents a new place to camp. For encampments with at least five people, the city must provide sanitary services upon request. It was not drafted by city officials, rather, but the ACLU, Columbia Legal Services, and others. It was submitted to the council.

But Dori does not support it one bit.

“The more we open our arms to providing services and making things as easy as possible – and I know it’s not easy to live on the street – we become a magnet,” Dori argues. “The fact is that we’ve spent $1 billion on homelessness over the last decade. I’m sure we’ve had well-intentioned business leaders and politicians who had a 10-year plan to end homelessness, but the problem has gotten dramatically worse.”

Dori put forth this hypothetical situation to the homeless advocate: What if someone camps on a baseball or soccer field that people want to use. Technically, they would be given 48 hours and the public would have to wait.

“Realistically, that’s not actually happening,” Daugaard responded. “… in general, people are willing to go, people are willing to behave reasonably if they’re given an alternative.”

Daugaard also objects to Dori’s argument that Seattle will simply attract homeless people with such policies.

“People are not coming to Seattle to be homeless because we’re providing porta-potties and dumpsters — because we’re not,” she said. “People are living outside in massive numbers, to a level that is an embarrassment, I think to all of us, and I know we all agree on all that.”

“This is a complex problem (that) needs serious public policy,” Daugaard said. “Until it’s resolved, it is in no one’s interest that people not have a place to go to the bathroom, that people do not have a place to dispose of their garbage.”

MyNorthwest’s Eric Mandel contributed to this story.

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