Councilmember Herbold’s Statement on Homeless Encampment Removals

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Councilmember Herbold’s Statement on Homeless Encampment Removals

SEATTLE – Councilmember Lisa Herbold issued the following statement following this morning’s briefing on encampment removals from the Mayor’s office, Human Services Department, and Office of Finance and Administrative Services:

“Thanks to Executive Departments for responding to Council’s concerns and sharing procedures used to address issues related to outdoor camping today. Thank you as well to the Council’s Human Services and Public Health Chair Sally Bagshaw’s commitment to continue this discussion in her upcoming February committee meeting.  

“Development of the 2008 encampment removal protocols included a public process.  Several Councilmembers requested that the Executive consider a new public process to review the existing protocols.  I support that request, but in the interim, I’d ask that of the approximately 171 encampment sites that the Executive has identified, that the Council and the public receive information about the number of the locations that are deemed to be priorities for removal because of public safety threats to residents and/or surrounding communities.   I would like that information to be shared as soon as possible in the hopes we can quickly find some common ground around how best to address the safety of the people there.  For those sites that are not priorities for removal, I would request that we consider using this discussion to design a new public health approach to outreach to those individuals, rather than using limited resources that may only displace people to even less safe locations.

“I remain concerned about the resources that we have for the people staying in encampments that have already been removed.  Of the approximately 184 people staying in the 38 encampments removed since early November, only 74 received shelter.  We need to know more about whether the approximately 110 people who didn’t receive shelter were offered it and refused, and if so why, or whether there wasn’t sufficient capacity.  In their November letter, the ACLU, Columbia Legal Services, and the Seattle King County Coalition on Homelessness stated that the ‘City’s practices appear to include referring people from encampments to shelters that are already at capacity, effectively displacing people who are already in shelter or waiting in line for shelter, and forcing those indoors back into the streets.’  I appreciate that since the declaration of emergency more than 200 shelter beds have been added to the system, but I remain concerned that it is not sufficient to meet the emergency survival needs of the people our encampment removal practices displace.”

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