May 4, 2020
Since my first days in office, and long before the COVID-19 pandemic or the Stay Home, Stay Healthy order, I have been working to address the situation in and around Ballard Commons Park. I was heartened to learn that as of last week the Navigation Team had moved 17 people out of the park and into 24/7 enhanced shelter.
My calls of urgency for resources, shelter, housing, and management are because I also understand the need of adjacent residents to have relief from living next to an unmanaged encampment. We need to manage this public space and we had initial success with increased police presence, increased access to hygiene, and a cleaner and better maintained park. These are the steps we need to take as we refer people into shelter. Where we have failed is providing law enforcement the tools they need to address and intervene in the problematic and predatory behavior as we deployed the necessary resources to stabilize the people who are trying to get off the streets.
Encampment removals that push people around our community without addressing their underlying situation is not in line with my values. There were seven encampment removals in the first ten weeks of the year before encampment removals were stopped due to the pandemic. Simply put this means that every week we push people from one place to the next without addressing the underlying issues.
On Saturday May 2nd a notice was distributed indicating an encampment removal would occur on Monday, May 4th at 9:00 am. This did not meet the notice requirements of providing notice no fewer than 72 hours or no more than 7 days before an encampment removal.
Pushing people from one place to another, into our greenspaces, our industrial areas, and other resident’s front yards only exacerbate the problem we are trying to address and do not provide meaningful interventions. We need to use strategies that do not require us to come back week after week to push people around. Burien has contracted to move people out of their skate park and into hotels rooms with case managers – this program has been highly successful. We can do this in Seattle, and this is an approach we should take.
April 30, 2020
As Seattle continues to Stay Home, Stay Healthy, I continue to focus on a key component of keeping all of our neighbors healthy, which is addressing the situation in and around Ballard Commons Park.
You will remember from my last update that City Councilmembers do not have direct control of City Departments since they report directly to the Mayor. During times of stated civil emergency the Mayor is empowered to respond dynamically to the emerging crisis and council power is further limited.
My conversations with the Mayor’s office are occurring daily and the Mayor and City Departments have increased their response with additional resources each day, for the last week. As your Councilmember I remain committed to communicating with you about what I know and how the City is responding. To that end, here are the updates that I have.
- Human Services Navigation Team continues dispersing hygiene kits and referrals to shelter to people in Ballard Commons
- The Navigation Team has been in the park every day for the last week
- 17 people have moved out 0f the park and into shelter in the last week
- 95 new 24/7 enhanced shelters beds opened Lakefront Community House, T.C. Spirit Village, and expansion of Lake Union Village
- Ballard Library Bathrooms reopened
- Seattle Police increased their presence around Ballard Commons, downtown Ballard, and in the “Frelard” area
- Public Health continued their Hepatitis-A outreach and vaccines
- Increased cleaning, sanitizing, and garbage collection by the Navigation Team, Seattle Parks, and Seattle Public Utilities continued
- Hand-washing station and portable bathrooms remain in place with consistent cleaning
- Washington State National Guard deployed to help Solid Ground, Food Lifeline, Operation Sack Lunch, and St. Luke’s with food and drink packing, disbursement, and litter pickup
Problematic Behavior Intervention Challenges due to COVID-19:
- Currently Seattle Municipal Court and King County Superior Court operations are drastically reduced.
- The King County Jail has significantly restricted the types of bookings it will accept.
- Police presence will remain
- Library bathrooms will remain open
- Increased cleaning, sanitizing, and garbage collection will continue
- Navigation Team will continue with outreach and referral to shelter
- National Guard will be in and around Ballard Commons until May 29th with the possibility of extension
I was working before the COVID-19 pandemic and the Stay Home, Stay Healthy order to address the situation in and around Ballard Commons Park.
I am thankful for the work of my City partners; Seattle Public Libraries staff, Human Services Department, Seattle Parks, Seattle Public Utilities, Seattle Police, with a special thanks to the front-line staff who have continued their work at the park. With our collaborative efforts we have made some progress and I retain my call for implementing more solutions urgently. As other cities address their homelessness crisis with hotels, motels, shelter, and housing, we have only just begun to implement these solutions.
As this civil state of emergency continues and we move out of this crisis I remain committed to create long-term solutions that address the root causes of the issues we are experiencing. We must remain vigilant and act urgently to address social service gaps, and interventions to problematic behavior.
April 10, 2020
When I was elected, I knew as a lifelong Ballard resident that one of the first issues I needed to tackle was the situation in and around Ballard Commons Park. In my first two months in office I began the work to address this situation behind the scenes, and then COVID-19 hit. I continue monitoring Ballard Commons in-person and I opened my district office at the Customer Service Center (next to the Library) to increase my presence in the area.
When it comes to solving this issue or any community problem, we have to understand the history, who has the authority address it, and who is responsible for implementing solutions. For instance, City Councilmembers do not have direct control of City Departments as they report directly to the Mayor. During times of stated civil emergency the City Council has an even further limited role in the issuance of directives as the Mayor that is empowered to respond dynamically to the emerging crisis. It is my job to communicate with you, our residents of District 6, about what I know and how the City is responding.
I am not waiting for others to act because our community is in crisis and this is an urgent issue. I called a meeting of all departments with jurisdiction in this area including: Seattle King County Public Health, Human Services Department, Seattle Parks and Recreation, Seattle Police Department, Seattle Public Libraries, Seattle Public Utilities, Finance and Administrative Services, and the Mayor’s Office. It is important to note that Mayor Durkan and I have spoken about Ballard Commons Park, she agrees that this situation needs to be addressed, and thus far City Departments have been responsive. Still, my efforts will only be as successful as what is directed by the Mayor, what City Departments implement, and how we support our community partners in creating solutions. Overall, we need to do more, and we need to work faster.
These are the updates from King County Public Health I have received:
- In March 2020, Public Health identified 30 confirmed Hepatitis A cases County-wide
- 14 of the individuals reported living homeless in the Ballard area, but a common link has not been identified at this time
- This is the Public Health Dashboard for Hepatitis-A cases
- Please review these Public health recommendations to preventing Hepatitis A
The City’s initial response to these Hepatitis-A cases include:
- The most important strategy for addressing Hepatitis A is vaccination, and as part of a 2-year Hep A vaccination effort, Public Health mobilized several clinics in the Ballard area in March and are continuing weekly clinics and outreach three times per week
- Public Health- Seattle King County Environmental Health team has connected with Seattle Parks & Recreation to confirm best practice sanitation procedures of the Portland Loo at the Seattle Commons as a precaution
- Human Services Department and the Navigation Team completing outreach with hygiene kits three times per week
- Seattle Public Utilities increased proactive cleaning to four times per week and servicing the garbage can in front of the library five times per week
- Seattle Police Department’s Community Police Teams, Anti-Crime Teams, and Bike Patrols are supplementing patrols
- Seattle Parks and Recreation reopened the Portland Loo with cleaning three times daily and picking up litter three times per week
- The City is providing a handwashing station and portable toilets at Ballard Commons Park
Until we stand up appropriate shelter options, we need to manage what is currently an unmanaged encampment. This requires the city increasing:
- Security for housed and unhoused neighbors
- Access to restrooms and handwashing
- Access to drinking water and food
- Sanitation and cleaning
- Pathways to appropriate shelter space
- Pathways to stable housing
I will continue to update you with the information I have about the City’s response to these Hepatitis-A cases.
The COVID-19 pandemic is exposing and magnifying the gaps in our social services. Councilmember Lewis called a Select Committee on Homelessness Strategies and Investments to highlight these issues and you can watch the Committee Presentations here.
We must act urgently, and you can count on me to continue addressing social service gaps and interventions in problematic behavior.