More new developments on the night before a City Council committee next discusses how to shape the city’s rules about where unsheltered people can camp:
That’s the archived video of a media briefing called by Mayor Murray late today. While the announcement said it would be “a press conference ahead of the severe storms expected to impact Seattle (and to) lay out steps the City is taking to protect people experiencing homelessness during the severe weather,” more time was spent on the encampment legislation and the mayor’s plan for a proposal of his own.
A key point he stressed is that he would not allow camping in parks or on sidewalks, period, and that any such campers “will be removed.” He also said that he has city staff looking for sites for four new authorized encampments somewhere in the city (no locations mentioned), “safe alternative locations for people living unsheltered.” He also said that he will address the “trash crisis” related to so many living without shelter or services, including a system for picking up needles, and 10 new “dropoff boxes” for them “around the city.” (Again, no locations mentioned.) And he repeated something he’s said often, that the state and federal governments need to “step up” to help with the homelessness emergency, which he says has been brewing for decades.
Also present at the briefing, in addition to various city department heads, were Councilmembers Tim Burgess, Sally Bagshaw, and Debora Juarez. Bagshaw, who chairs the Human Services and Public Health Committee that will meet at 9:30 am tomorrow to discuss the encampment rules, spoke briefly; she reiterated that her committee will not vote tomorrow, but will discuss the alternatives that are now public, including the divergent bills she and Councilmember Mike O’Brien are offering (covered in this WSB story last night). She also issued this statement.
WHAT COUNCILMEMBER HERBOLD IS SAYING: Our area’s City Councilmember Lisa Herbold has issued an updated statement on the encampment-rules issue. It’s published in its entirety on her blog-format City Council website; she says it’s the reply she sent to people who had contacted her about the issue.
-“There is still much more work to be done before this bill is ready for a vote.”
She says her three goals for the process are:
*Better manage public property and respond to the crisis of public homelessness with the objective of having fewer people living outside in our community
*Ensure that our current encampment removal practices are not barriers to people accessing housing and shelter resources.
*Address the legitimate and immediate public health and safety issues impacting both housed and unhoused residents in our communities
Elaborating extensively on all three points, she notes in reference to the first that: “There are 619 known encampments today, on city owned land, with only vague, ineffective written guidelines for how the city defines and prioritizes its work associated with cleaning areas, or removing people from specific locations.” And that’s why she says the council is trying to write rules/guidelines.
Toward the third point, Herbold says, “No one working on this legislation intends to create a ‘right to camp’ much less a ‘right to camp anywhere.’ The reality is that people are and will, for the near term, be living outdoors and that no one has a magic wand to change that reality overnight.”
Again, you can read her entire statement here.