Last night, I joined Mayor Murray, and Councilmembers Bagshaw and Juarez in announcing a much better solution to the challenges of ad hoc camp sites popping up across Seattle.
Here’s a very brief outline of what we announced:
- City government will open up to four new authorized encampments similar to those already operating in Ballard, Interbay and at Othello in southeast Seattle. At least one of these encampments will be managed as a low-barrier facility, meaning individuals will not be automatically excluded because of chemical addiction, mental health issues or other typical barriers. While not a perfect solution, these organized and well-managed encampments are much better than ad hoc encampments in our parks, greenbelts or city sidewalks.
- City government will increase street outreach and improve our approach. Outreach teams will prioritize moving people off the street and to safe indoor locations, including emergency shelter, rapid re-housing services, and permanent housing.
- Ad hoc camp removal protocols will be changed to reflect a triage approach. Camp sites in parks or on sidewalks will still not be allowed and will be subject to immediate removal, as will sites where violence and serious criminal behavior is occurring. Other sites will only be removed if shelter or housing services are offered and declined. This triaging reflects a humane and balanced approach that allows us to appropriately address public health and safety concerns while recognizing that some ad hoc camping is likely to continue until the city addresses the necessary long-term fixes to our homelessness response.
- Focus on housing first, a practical approach that began in Seattle many years ago that acknowledges that the best first step is to get people housed with minimal conditions or barriers. King County, United Way, All Home and city government have agreed to new strategic principles that emphasize the housing-first approach. Everything we do should be focused on moving people from the street into a warm, safe place.
The Mayor has indicated that he will provide more specific details to Council next week.