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My letter to Mayor Durkan Demanding She Cancel the Planned Sweep of Miller Park as Community Has Called For

Wednesday April 14, 2021

Dear Mayor Durkan,

I was disappointed to see your response to the valid community concerns about your planned sweep of homeless people sheltering in Miller Park this Friday, April 16. Both the response from your office (below) and from the Human Services Department (HSD) under your direction, ignore the demands of neighbors in the Miller community who have discussed with Miller Park homeless residents daily. 

They have reported to your office and to the City Council that the residents at Miller Park would like to move into the Executive Hotel Pacific, run by the Low Income Housing Institute (LIHI). But they will not have time to move everyone in before Friday. They urged you to cancel Friday’s planned sweep to give outreach workers the time they need.

Rather than putting into action this concrete solution, and fulfilling the reasonable and sensible request they have made, you have responded with obfuscation. 

Your Chief of Staff states that, “every person at Miller Playfield has been offered shelter, and there continue to be available shelter resources for every individual.” That may be formally accurate, true, but it denies the basic reality that different people have different legitimate needs. Some shelters do not permit pets, others do not allow couples to live together, others do not have space for people to safely store their belongings, and others are simply infantilizing. For some individuals, certain shelter options could actually make them worse off.

Whatever the reason, it is a collective social obligation to offer humane options. The community members report there is a solution that the homeless residents of Miller Park want to take. Instead of facilitating that, the response from your office threatens the, “removal of an encampment if individuals do not accept shelter or the resources offered.” In practice, such a belligerent policy has always resulted in homeless people having no choice but to move to the next park, rather than the minimum they need, which is to a place with quality case management that can help them find permanent housing. 

As I mentioned in my previous letter, there is funding for Tiny House Villages that the People’s Budget Movement won last November, that you continue to delay implementing. The letter from your office makes oblique reference to “occasional availability at tiny home villages.” Again and again, homeless people tell us (and homeless outreach workers confirm) that any time a tiny house becomes available, our homeless community members want to move there. Nickelsville residents recently reported that people climb the fence into their villages hoping for a spot in a tiny house. Why would you delay creating the tiny house villages for which funds have already been allocated?

The response from your office simultaneously ignores the shelter options that homeless people have said they would accept, and then justifies sweeps by claiming that people are not accepting the shelter offered.

I urge you to cancel the April 16 sweep of Miller Park, allow the residents there to move to the Executive Hotel Pacific, and immediately build more tiny house villages, so there is a tiny home available for anyone who needs it.

Sincerely,

Kshama Sawant

From: Formas, Stephanie <Stephanie.Formas@seattle.gov>
Sent: Wednesday, April 14, 2021 8:57 AM
To: LEG_CouncilMembers <council@seattle.gov>
Cc: Lemke, Will <Will.Lemke@seattle.gov>; Howell, Helen <Helen.Howell@seattle.gov>; Sixkiller, Casey <Casey.Sixkiller@seattle.gov>; Rehrmann, Lily <Lily.Rehrmann2@seattle.gov>; Aguirre, Jesús <Jesus.Aguirre@seattle.gov>

Subject: Update on Playfield Outreach Efforts

 Dear Councilmembers:  With Kylie’s absence, I wanted to provide an update on outreach efforts at two locations and confirm that Kings Inn is nearing capacity from referrals based on a by name list of referrals working with the HOPE Team.   Two weeks ago, in preparation for school and an increase of young people on playfields, the city intensified outreach efforts at Rainier and Miller Playfields. Last week, the City referred five individuals from an encampment at Rainier Playfield into shelter, thus avoiding an encampment removal.

In preparation for Meany Middle School reopening on April 19, the City contracted service providers intensified outreach efforts with the goal of getting all who were onsite at Miller Playfield into shelter and connected to wraparound services that advance individuals on a path towards permanent housing.   City contracted outreach providers have been visiting the park weekly for several months to connect with people who are unhoused and to offer individuals shelter options, such as enhanced shelter and tiny homes.  These efforts have increased to daily visits leading up to the middle school reopening and have included referrals to individuals into the new hotel-based shelter units.

The City‘s HOPE Team’s goal is to connect every person to shelter that has been staying at the park over the winter.   Last week, in coordination with the HOPE Team, providers identified every individual at Miller Park who have not already been referred to shelter as a way to track future offers. According to our City contracted outreach providers, as of last Wednesday, every person at Miller Playfield has been offered shelter, and there continue to be available shelter resources for every individual. 

 Since March 26, HOPE Team data shows 24 individuals have been referred to shelter from Miller Park. Our City-contracted outreach providers have the professional experience and expertise to assess the needs of those living within encampments and are best to determine the right placement in the City funded shelter portfolio or other services like hotel vouchers or diversion resources to connect back to families or loved ones. The City continues to have shelter for everyone on site to move inside into safer places with services.

 Just yesterday, the City has had multiple openings at the Navigation Center, a low barrier 24/7 enhanced shelter operated by DESC and the newly renovated Otto’s Place which is 24/7 enhanced shelter operated by Compass. On Monday, there were multiple spots available at Jan & Peter’s Place Women’s Shelter, a smaller 24/7 enhanced women’s shelter with intensive case management. Outreach continues to engage those at Miller who did not accept these offers of shelter.  The City also has rooms available at hotels, like the Executive Hotel Pacific, and occasional availability at tiny home villages. The resources change daily, but we are working to ensure that available shelter resources are made available to those living at Miller Playfield.

As you know, we’ve also increased our vaccination efforts at shelters across the City.   Ahead of school reopening, the City will post a notice today that any remaining belongings will be removed as there are many abandoned items, propane tanks, structures, and tents that remain on site. Seattle Parks and Recreation staff will store personal items in accordance with City policy.  We also continue to monitor public safety concerns on site for the unsheltered population and surrounding community.  Between October 1, 2020 and April 5, 2021, the Seattle Fire Department responded to the general area of Miller Park Playfield over 23 times.

Of these responses, 14 were for illegal burns or tent fires, six were for Basic Life Support medical responses (minor injuries) and three were Advanced Life Support medical responses (more serious in nature). Additionally, there were times where a unit was directed to investigate a fire or life safety complaint out of service, and there were also calls that were transferred to AMR or SPD. Health One also responded to the site on at least one occasion.   

As businesses and schools reopen, the City will continue to offer these resources, with the same commitment to leading with outreach and addressing the welfare of our unhoused neighbors along with that of nearby residents and businesses, which may mean removal of an encampment if individuals do not accept shelter or the resources offered.  Please let us know if you have any other questions. 

Best,
 Stephanie 

 Title: City of Seattle logoStephanie Formas
Chief of Staff (She/Her) Office of Mayor Jenny A. Durkan | City of Seattle
M: 206-247-0475 | stephanie.formas@seattle.gov
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