Seattle leaders urge council to not ban homeless camp sweeps

Nov 1, 2017, 5:31 PM | Updated: 5:49 pm
Seattle mayor, Navigation Team, Mayor Murray, sweeps, 911 response...
Seattle police officers Wes Phillips, left, and Tori Newborn talk with Corvin Dobschutz as part of Seattle’s Navigation Team. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)
(AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)

Seattle Mayor Tim Burgess, the city’s firefighter union, and nine officials are urging the council not go through with a ban of homeless encampment sweeps.

“Should the city council vote to adopt the proviso as proposed by Councilmembers Sawant, O’Brien, and Harris-Talley, this effective work will stop and the public health and safety risks inherently associated with these encampments will dramatically increase to the detriment of the people of Seattle — including, of course, the campers themselves,” Mayor Burgess writes in one of many letters to the council from city leaders.

RELATED: Council member wants to defund Navigation Team

The city council is currently crafting the 2018 budget and setting policy for the upcoming year. Within the proposed budget is a ban on sweeping unsanctioned homeless encampments on public property. The policy is backed by Councilmembers Kshama Sawant, Kirsten Harris-Talley, and Mike O’Brien. They propose to provide portable bathrooms and garbage service to the camps instead.

Seattle is currently using a Navigation Team that engages the homeless community and camps. It works over weeks with people living in camps, connecting them to services, better places to live or shelter, and keeps contact with the city’s most vulnerable. Sawant proposes to nix the Navigation Team. The city also has developed a plan for handling private property at the camps. And Seattle already offers some trash services.

In a memo obtained by KING 5, Burgess writes that there are about 400 unsanctioned homeless camps in Seattle, posing health risks to residents and campers.

“The city government cannot ignore or tolerate these risks,” he writes. “To do so would be to abdicate our obligation to maintain a safe and peaceful city … encampment removals only occur when there are specific identifiable public health and safety risks. Since the removal protocols were refined last year, and since the Navigation Team began operating earlier this year … when conditions mandate that an unauthorized encampment be removed, nearly 40 percent of the residents are accepting the services being offered.”

“In addition to the human factors involved here, so far this year our city workers have removed over 6,000,000 pounds of trash and human waste from the unauthorized encampments that have been cleaned,” Burgess writes. “The public health risks posed by this trash should not be minimized. The removal practices being implemented by the city workers are humane, well planned, and effective.”

Seattle leaders oppose sweeps ban

KING 5 reports that not only Mayor Burgess wrote to the city council, but also leaders of nine Seattle departments, including: the police department; fire department; parks and recreation; department of transportation; budget office; public utilities; finance and administrative services; human services; and homeless emergency response. City officials wrote in a nine-page letter:

We are deeply concerned about GS 240-1-A-1-2018, sponsored by Councilmembers Sawant, O’Brien, and Harris-Talley, which would undermine the Navigation Team’s ongoing efforts to address the homelessness crisis. We believe such a proposal would harm the City’s interests in helping move more unsheltered.

The Seattle Firefighters Union wrote another letter to Councilmember Sawant, also expressing concern with the proposed legislation that would prohibit sweeps of unsanctioned homeless encampments.

Every week we respond to hundreds of homeless individuals with acute medical or emergency needs and we see firsthand the tragic, unsanitary, unhealthy, unsafe, and often horrific conditions that many of the unsheltered individuals in our City endure. An increasing number of these emergencies are at unauthorized encampments in fundamentally unhealthy and unsafe conditions. While there are no easy solutions, letting vulnerable individuals live in these conditions without intervention cannot be the answer.

Jesus Aguirre, director of Seattle Parks and Recreation, also took the time to write an additional letter about the proposed legislation. He reminds the council that the 130 grants that have funded the city’s acquisition and development of park land require the city to maintain the parks as originally funded — which does not include allowing encampments on the property.

“Failure to comply with the long-term obligations of an RCO grant has certain consequences … It also may jeopardize future RCO grant funding for the city,” Aguirre writes.

Local News

(KIRO 7)...
KIRO 7 News Staff

35 Marysville teachers receive layoff notices after voters reject levy extensions

Thirty-five teachers in the Marysville School District received layoff notices last week, after voters rejected levy measures that would have funded 14-18% of the district’s overall budget.
12 hours ago
Gwen Baumgardner

Car thefts are on the rise in the region

In Seattle, there have been 2,075 vehicle thefts already this year. Seattle police reported that approximately 86% of stolen cars are recovered.
1 day ago
Kirkland, WA (Getty Images)...
Gee Scott and Ursula Reutin Show

Tax hikes to join booming property values in East King County

Property values in select cities in East King County have skyrocketed, leading King County Assessor John Wilson to warn homeowners about noticeable increases in property taxes.
1 day ago
Pike Place...
MyNorthwest Staff

Enraged Pike Place motorist pleads not guilty to assault with a motor vehicle charges

A man arrested for an assault stemming from a Pike Place incident pleads not guilty in King County Superior Court.
2 days ago
KIRO Newsradio Newsdesk

Prolific Seattle-area smash-and-grab ATM thieves formerly arrested for murder

60 robberies involving trucks driving into local stores to steal ATMs and cash registers may be solved with the arrest of two men at a Tukwila motel Friday morning.
2 days ago
Dalton Day

Rival to First Student exposes Seattle Schools’ fumbled bidding war

First Student's competition has accused Seattle Public Schools of “arbitrarily and improperly” awarding a district contract to First Student.
2 days ago

Sponsored Articles


Anacortes – A Must Visit Summertime Destination

While Anacortes is certainly on the way to the San Juan Islands (SJI), it is not just a destination to get to the ferry… Anacortes is a destination in and of itself!

Ready for your 2022 Alaskan Adventure with Celebrity Cruises?

Celebrity Cruises SPONSORED — A round-trip Alaska cruise from Seattle is an amazing treat for you and a loved one. Not only are you able to see and explore some of the most incredible and visually appealing natural sights on the planet, but you’re also able to relax and re-energize while aboard a luxury cruise […]

Compassion International Is Determined to ‘Fill’ a Unique Type of Football ‘Stadium’

Compassion International SPONSORED — During this fall’s football season—and as the pandemic continues to impact the entire globe—one organization has been urging caring individuals to help it “fill” a unique type of “stadium” in order to make a lasting difference in the lives of many. Compassion International’s distinctive Fill the Stadium (FtS, fillthestadium.com) initiative provides […]

What are the Strongest, Greenest, Best Windows?

Lake Washington Windows & Doors SPONSORED — Fiberglass windows are an excellent choice for window replacement due to their fundamental strength and durability. There is no other type of window that lasts as long as fiberglass; so why go with anything else? Fiberglass windows are 8x stronger than vinyl, lower maintenance than wood, more thermally […]

COVID Vaccine is a Game-Changer for Keeping our Kids Healthy

Snohomish Health District SPONSORED — Cheers to the parents and guardians who keep their kids safe and healthy. The dad who cooks a meal with something green in it, even though he’s tired and drive-thru burgers were tempting. The mom who calms down the little one who loudly and resolutely does NOT want to brush […]
Experience Anacortes

Coastal Christmas Celebration Week in Anacortes

With minimal travel time required and every activity under the sun, Anacortes is the perfect vacation spot for all ages.
Seattle leaders urge council to not ban homeless camp sweeps