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Video disproves claim that nobody is camping on play fields in Seattle

Someone pitched a tent in the corner of an end zone at a playfield in Interbay. (Contributed)

Update

Lisa Daugaard is director of the Public Defender Association. Her organization was one of many that contributed to the homeless camping bill that the Seattle City Council is currently considering. She previously said, “realistically” nobody is camping on school grounds, in parks, or on play fields.

Now, with video of exactly that happening, Duagaard sent this response:

The proposed ordinance would not allow tents on playfields. In fact it would allow tents to be removed from playfields, and in considerably less time than under the present confusing rules. The key is that that person would know where he or she can go without being asked to move again and again. People understandably are unhappy that there is presently public camping in many areas of the city. But this proposed ordinance did not cause the status quo! It is an attempt to deal with reality and make the situation more tolerable for neighborhoods and those who are living outside alike, while we create real alternatives so this ends in the foreseeable future.

Original article

The current set of rules on homelessness seem to be creating headaches when people try to get tents removed from parks.

Take this example: A group of tents show up on playfield rented out for youth football. The Parks Department says to tell the police. The police say they can only enforce parks department protocols. The Parks Department says they can’t do anything until they get an official from the office of civil rights to join them to speak with the person or people in the tent. The Parks Department also has no power of removal until the police show up.

That’s the back-and-forth parents face in Seattle. In the end, you end up with a tent on a playfield, much like what happened this weekend. A parent told KIRO Radio’s Dori Monson about a tent pitched in the corner of an end zone at the Interbay Field, located off Dravus Street, between Magnolia and Queen Anne. The kids had to play around it.

“It’s on the very back line of the corner of the end zone, I guess it’s in a great position to take out the corner route for passes into the end zone,” a listener named Paul told KIRO Radio’s Dori Monson.

Parks ordinance issues

This issue comes on the heels of an ordinance drafted by advocate groups that will dramatically alter how the city deals with homeless encampments. 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.

About three weeks ago, Dori spoke with Lisa Daugaard, director of the Public Defender Association, about his concern that the ordinance would ostensibly allow a homeless individual to set up a tent on a kids’ sports field and the police wouldn’t have any legal recourse to remove it. Daugaard dismissed the idea as a ridiculous hypothetical.

“Realistically, that’s not happening,” she said at the time.

Apparently, it is.

Paul emailed Dori a video of the situation and told him about issues he and the kids have had with homeless campers.

“I heard you talk to (Daugaard) on that day on that show and I knew at that time she wasn’t anywhere near reality because at our practice field and playfields where we play our youth football games, there are tents there every day,” he said.

And it gets worse than the video shows, Paul said.

“We’ve had instances where we’ve had to have people drug off the field who have passed out on the sidelines and we’ve had homeless people come over say, ‘We’ve got a guy over here who’s kind of laid out, do you mind if he just sleeps it off over there, can you practice around him?’” Paul said. “We don’t really know what to do about it. We’ve talked to the police down there. They park in the parking lot sometimes and they basically said, ‘Well, if they’re not hassling you, there’s nothing we can do about it, so you’ll just have to share the field with them.’”

Parks Department has no enforcement authority

Det. Patrick Michaud, with the Seattle Police Department, said he was unable to find any reports about tents at the park where the video was taken — the last report being about kids smoking pot there during the summer. He advised MyNorthwest to contact the Parks Department since, “We enforce their parks ordinances. We have a mutual aid with them.”

Dewey Potter, acting communications manager of Seattle Parks and Recreation, said it is “unusual” for homeless tents to stay camped during a football game like the one described on Saturday, but that they get calls of campers in parks often and “everywhere.” And, even when they leave, “they just come back,” she said.

Potter said people need to call police because “we don’t have any enforcement authority; that’s the problem. And now that summer is over, our weekend crews are significantly slimmed down.”

She said someone from the Office of Civil Rights is needed to accompany members of the parks crew in these situations and that everyone is waiting for the homeless task force to finish its work and for the city council to finish its deliberations on the most recent proposal. She said they are treading lightly until given more direction.

“It’s a very hard thing,” she said. “We feel for the people who are homeless but parks are there for other reasons and people want to use them so we have to make sure that happens as best as we can.”

Potter encouraged people to call police because there is nothing they can legally do and that, in this case, police could enforce the parks departments no-camping ordinance.

“That would be the obvious one that would apply here,” she said. “The police have the authority to go and shoo people away. Our staff can try but they don’t have the authority to make it happen.

“We’re treading lightly because of the mayor’s declaration on homelessness, so when we do clear an encampment, we do so with a person from the office of civil rights present and we will have gone through the existing protocol, which requires three days notice and information about services be given to the folks before they clean out the place.”

Problems in Interbay

Paul said he’s been coaching at the fields for six years and that his kids play there. He sets up the fields starting at 7:30 a.m. on Saturdays and he said, lately there have been two or three tents pitched in the corner of the end zone at the northwest end of the field.

“Bless the people at the Parks Department, they’ve actually been sticking their neck out and waking the people up and asking them if they could please move their tents because we’ve got 10, 12 hours of football games gonna be played there all day,” he said. “On this occasion, there was another tent holder who moved their tent away and this one last guy just didn’t respond and didn’t come out of his tent, and right at the northwest corner of the end zone there’s a blue and green tent there all day long while we’re playing football games.”

Paul said he and the other parents rent the field for the day.

“We paid for the field and we can’t get anybody in any official capacity to move a hazard out of the way,” he said. “… What strikes me as strange, I’m an adult and I’m used to this stuff, I see it all the time. The kids don’t even flinch anymore. They just do their laps around the tents. It’s just part of the landscape now. One of the things we do before games and before practices is show up 15, 20 minutes early, walk the field and the corners of the field where we gather on the sidelines and look for needles and drug paraphernalia.”

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