Councilmember Tammy J. Morales (District 2 – South Seattle) released the following statement following the City of Seattle’s sweep of a homeless encampment in SODO during a dangerous heat wave this morning:
“What we saw today was a continued failure of our city response to addressing the root causes of homelessness, said Councilmember Morales. “I am calling on the Executive’s office to work to ensure that adequate services and support are available for people experiencing homelessness are available before the City displaces them, especially during dangerous weather events.
Earlier this month, my staff visited the site of 3rd and Holgate with outreach workers from REACH to hear the stories of folks living along this street. Many people who were living at this encampment site are medically vulnerable, including folks with terminal cancer and congestive heart failure. Despite these service providers’ best efforts to connect people to shelter that accommodates their needs, there were not enough shelter options to move people into today despite the extensive outreach that took place this month.
We know that this extreme heat is dangerous for the many medically vulnerable folks who lived on this street, and being swept is challenging enough without the added stressor of the scorching temperature. Many residents chose to stay close to this spot because it is close to some basic resources in a neighborhood where resources are extremely scarce. Additionally, residents and patrons of SODO already endure the pollution, rail dust, and other environmental detriments that come with its industrial zoning. Instead of addressing the root causes of homelessness, the City has now put these folks in a position to have to spend more of their time re-gathering their basic necessities rather than putting time and effort into securing long term plans and housing,” said Councilmember Morales.
This morning, the city conducted a sweep in SODO along 3rd Avenue from just north of Holgate down to Lander. This site had over 20 RVs and 30 vehicles, totaling a minimum of 50 residents. This week, we are also experiencing a heat wave and have received an excessive heat warning from the National Weather Service. While Cooling Centers have been opened across the city to the public, the reality is that this is not within reach for many of our most vulnerable residents.
There have been over 6 sweeps in my district in the past month alone, including another major removal at the VA. Our office also does not receive communications on these sweeps in advance, despite our requests to the Executive’s office for this crucial information.