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    The Conversation about Encampments and Sweeps Continue

    Last Friday, October 14, 2016, in my Human Services and Public Health Committee we discussed two substitute versions of CB 118794 about encampments and sweeps.  If you missed the four hours of controversy, you can catch up: watch Seattle Channel’s   Video link here.

    Links to the underlying legislation, and two substitutes — one offered by Councilmember O’Brien and the second by me can be accessed here:

    file:///Users/Sally/Downloads/Agenda.pdf

    My substitute ordinance — should it go forward to the full Council after budget — will stop sweeps without offering stable places to live will clarify the following:

    1. No camping on sidewalks or in parks. “Unsuitable locations” for encampments will be redefined so encampments will not be allowed in our parks or on our sidewalks unless allowed in specific locations by a specific city parks department director’s rule. To assure sufficient suitable places are made available, language is included requiring the mayor to identify areas elsewhere that are neither unsafe nor unsuitable, and to add sanctioned or managed encampments “numerous and large enough to accommodate the reasonable estimated unsheltered population in need of outdoor living space.”

     

    1. Timelines and action. Timelines for removal of persons and property are clarified. In an unsafe and unsuitable location, removal will begin same day. Protection of campers’ property and procedures are defined. If people are in “hazardous” areas, they will have the City’s help in curing the hazard over 72 hours. If the hazard has not been cured, the city may institute removal. This provides some flexibility yet creates clarity around importance of the 72-hour timeline.

     

    1. Police will enforce criminal laws. Affirmative direction is given to the police to enforce laws against criminal conduct.

     

    1. Removal after non-compliance. I have added specific statements that if the city has satisfied the conditions of notice and outreach and made offers of adequate space or housing, the city may remove any person who fails to comply with requests. This is a last resort.

     

    1. Rule-making. This substitute bill directs the mayor through rule-making to prioritize removal from unsafe and unsuitable locations, and “deprioritize” removals from locations that are neither unsafe nor unsuitable nor hazardous. Also required is a public number that can be used to address complaints.

     

    We have spent a significant amount of time on the original bill and the drafting of the two substitutes. In my opinion, we must allow people to stay in place if they are not in locations we have declared unsuitable, and fast track investments in stabilizing people who are camped outside. Getting people inside stable shelter or housing and offering needed employment possibilities, mental health and drug addiction options as fast as we can are my goals.

    During the budget, I am committed to the following:

    * Ensure proportional systemic investments in diversion, a program that uses flexible funds to help people maintain or connect to stable housing , rapid-rehousing and low barrier, 24/7 shelter.

    * Fund adequate shelter with a general right to return to the same location while using emergency services with some conditions, and access to lockers to store belongings.

    * Deprioritize spending on encampment removals until the mayor provides a plan for reviewing and revising city protocols and establishing places for people to be.

    * Ensure sufficient resources to clean up areas where garbage has built up, and provide money for portable toilets, garbage and recycling where needed. * Implement recommendations of the Opiate Addiction Task Force.

    * Work with state and county at add more mental health beds and funding

    * Coordinate outreach teams who will work with unsheltered individuals and assure funding for at least one dedicated team in each council district, and add funding for youth outreach.

    Finally, I am working with the Mayor to implement new protocols to which he has committed.  I will push to have these drafted and in effect before our budget vote in November.  There will be much more to come on that.

     

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