FOLLOWUP: Where the Roxbury/Delridge sidewalk saga stands

(WSB photo: CoLEAD’s Jesse Benet left, with Councilmember Lisa Herbold and, right, Mac McElroy)

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

Mac McElroy was not impressed.

Two-thirds of the sidewalk-blocking tent encampment across Delridge Way from his establishment, the Triangle Pub, is gone. But three tents remain. And when a delegation of outreach workers and City Councilmember Lisa Herbold stopped by his place last night, he didn’t get a commitment on how long they’ll be allowed to stay.

“Nobody’s accountable,” he observed.

McElroy is one of the South Delridge business owners who have been asking the city for months to tell the campers to clear the sidewalk.

As we reported two weeks ago, the CoLEAD program – part of a nonprofit – started working with the campers about a month ago, and got several to agree to accept shelter. They’re doing well, said the four people from outreach programs who were at Wednesday night’s sidewalk chat outside the Triangle Pub. Two of them went over to check in with what they say is just one actual remaining resident of the three tents – the others are for her stuff, they said.

McElroy is skeptical. He thinks more than one person is living there. And he says drug dealing is happening on that corner. Police stopped by there briefly while we were listening to the conversation outside his pub, though we don’t know the nature of the call.

Regarding the person who the outreach workers say is still living there, what’s the plan? She’s not ready to come inside, they say. But they are standing by ready to get her indoors if and when she is ready, they insist. “It takes a lot to build trust with people,” says Nichole Alexander. They often have to invest weeks into gaining someone’s trust before an offer is accepted.

There’s no mandate for anyone on either side of the equation, though. Ultimately, SDOT is accountable for the sidewalk. But they weren’t represented at last night’s chat. They at one point categorized the site as a high-priority encampment, potentially putting it in queue for removal, but then an illness outbreak was reported. (As reported here last month, that’s since been resolved.)

Otherwise, there was much discussion of continuing to clean up the area. Seattle Public Utilities is coming by to pick up trash. Perhaps, it was suggested, SDOT can come pressure-wash the sidewalk. Herbold wondered if the now-open section of the sidewalk can be made less attractive for camping – set out larger planters, perhaps.

McElroy was still awaiting answers on clearing the rest of the encampment.

“Did we give you a little sense of hope” by finding shelter for some of the campers? CoLEAD’s Jesse Benet asked.

“A little,” says McElroy, “but you picked the low-hanging fruit.”

Even at that, the work here wasn’t actually part of an official outreach assignment from the city. Trying to explain what happened here, just at one site, involves an array of acronyms. The LEAD program was expanding into White Center – the unincorporated King County side of Roxbury and beyond – and Benet decided to send in CoLEAD as well as a manager from JustCARE, which in turn is part of REACH, since the situation was affecting people on both sides of the city-limit line. The city’s own outreach picture is murky at best, Herbold said, because the current outreach efforts, the newly formed HOPE team under the wing of the mayor’s office, “gatekeep” shelter resources. So, she said, those aren’t necessarily being offered in situations like this unless someone like CoLEAD is brought in – they offer space in hotels, including one entirely run by their program. But the funding for that may run out, bringing yet another layer of complexity to the situation.

After the councilmember and outreach workers left Wednesday night, we hung around, after learning that Triangle Pub was about to host the White Center Pride flag-raising. Awaiting that event, we asked McElroy for his thoughts on how the meeting went.

“Photo op,” he declared. (For the record, we were the only media there and just happened to find out about it while talking to Benet about the Roxbury/Delridge efforts last week.) McElroy is a sharp-eyed observer of such things, having had a front-row seat for politics a decade ago when he ran for the State Legislature as an independent. Along with the general situation, he was also frustrated that the visitors weren’t able to better coordinate with his neighboring business owners to be there.

So while the sidewalk camp remains, at reduced size across the street, there is one city streetside action taken without request or consultation: A street-parking spot on 16th, along the east side of the Triangle Pub, was painted and signed as a “Food Pick-Up Zone” a few weeks ago. “We don’t need it,” asserts the pub crew.

P.S. Some of the programs mentioned above – and the South Delridge outreach – was spotlighted during the City Council’s Select Committee on Homelessness Strategies and Investments last week; you can advance the video to 1 hour, 19 minutes in.

44 Replies to "FOLLOWUP: Where the Roxbury/Delridge sidewalk saga stands"

  • Aaron June 3, 2021 (11:50 pm)

    What do the people living in those three tents think? I’m legitimately disappointed their views weren’t brought up here.  

    • Sasquatch June 4, 2021 (4:56 pm)

      That’s a good question. Perhaps you could go ask them yourself and let us know.

  • Matt P June 4, 2021 (12:31 am)

    I’m sorry, but if someone won’t accept shelter, then they shouldn’t be allowed to camp on the sidewalk.  It’s utterly ridiculous that we have to follow laws while others are allowed to flaunt them and everyone just shrugs and says “what can we do?”  I could understand if there were no shelters available, but she is choosing to stay there.

    • SadAboutBridge June 4, 2021 (7:27 am)

      Precisely my issue. If there are no shelters then yes, let them stay there. If there is space available and they don’t want to move sweep the place. On Wednesday my car got towed after parking in a no parking bus zone by mistake. I don’t have the luxury of choosing the laws I want to follow, I suffer the consequences of my actions. This “resident” has been given housing options and still refuses. At that point all she is doing is being allowed to camp illegally. 

    • person or planter June 4, 2021 (7:51 am)

      Sorry but you just don’t know what you’re talking about. Shelters are not nice places to live. You might choose a tent and the street too, if you had some of this life experience.

      • Blinkyjoe June 4, 2021 (3:41 pm)

        Sadabout DOES know what they’re talking about. Clearly laws for the unhomed are not enforced, but for the homed, they are enforced. Its not fair. My compassion muscle is exhausted. 

        • person or planter June 4, 2021 (6:12 pm)

          Think an argument could be made that those with more advantages should be held more accountable for things like parking tickets. You really think it’s fair to hold Mr. advantaged in his 4 bedroom home, job, and nice car etc. and Ms. disadvantaged who has nothing but a tent and sidewalk space in White Center (hypothetically) to the same expectations?

    • person or planter June 4, 2021 (9:23 am)

      ‘I could understand if there were no shelters available, but she is choosing to stay there’

      Unfortunately, these situations can be complex, and fyi, shelters are not exactly nice places to live. Actually, some sound like downright awful places to be. You might choose a tent and local park or sidewalk too, if you knew the reality.

      Sounds like she has a lot of belongings with her. I wonder if thats part of the challenge.

      • SadAboutBridge June 4, 2021 (4:44 pm)

        POP – You are probably right, shelters don’t sound like nice places to live, but neither is a tent on a sidewalk in front of a TAX PAYING BUSINESS. What irks me is that we have spent BILLIONS of dollars and our homeless population has only quadrupled since declared an emergency 5 years ago. ZERO results, ZERO improvements, but MASSIVE increases in homeless people making public parks and sidewalks inaccessible to those who contribute to society. The current policies are not working and no one is being held accountable and as a productive member of society I am fed up.

    • Ant June 4, 2021 (10:34 am)

      Sans the drug dealing, what law is being broken?

  • onion June 4, 2021 (6:07 am)

    “Photo op” for Council Rep Herbold about sums up this meeting and report.

  • Bill June 4, 2021 (6:43 am)

    Tend to agree with Aaron. 

  • Wseattleite June 4, 2021 (6:56 am)

    This story paints a realistic picture of the failure of local government.  No metric or mandate to accomplish anything, uncoordinated efforts with multiple agencies and organizations, and bandaid “fixes” that simply use up budgets with little to show for it.  “….sense of hope….”?  Not at all.

    • Yup June 4, 2021 (9:39 am)

      If they will not go to a shelter,  then how can this be the govt fault.  Most of these shelters have rules that most will not or can not follow to allow them to stay.  

  • anonyme June 4, 2021 (6:57 am)

    Two of the tents are for her “stuff”.  Why does one mentally ill camper get to dictate how the city runs?  If businesses get to operate, if other citizens are ‘allowed’ to use public spaces?  This situation is a snapshot of why this town’s approach to homelessness has been an utter failure.  Multiple agencies have been involved for months, and now we have yet another multi-agency meeting, including Herbold, standing around on the corner doing…nothing.  Posing.  There are so many fingers in this pie, with little to no oversight, and no authority.  I wonder how much this exercise in incompetence has cost taxpayers so far?  McElroy said it best: “Nobody’s accountable”.

    • Question Mark June 4, 2021 (1:37 pm)

      Which of your stuff would you be happy to jettison for a trip to a shelter? 

  • Bill June 4, 2021 (7:12 am)

    Seeing and reporting people as sagas is part of the problem. 

  • aa June 4, 2021 (7:12 am)

    Every since the report last month about the norovirus outbreak I have been confused that the contagious illness outbreak resulted in the decision to slow down the removal process rather than  increase their efforts due to the potential risk to the other people living on that sidewalk and the local community.   It seems, if nothing else, the sidewalks and outside of buildings should have been washed down and disinfected.

  • Meeeeee June 4, 2021 (7:31 am)

    We’ll never solve the unhoused issue if there are so many agencies and entities and nonprofits that can point the finger at another agnecy for who is responsible for getting people help.  It’s ridiculous that because this situation is on a sidewalk it’s SDOT’s problem.Where is the single over arching entity that can be the sole source to get people housed and mental health help, and address business owners concerns?This fragmented system allows the gov’t to continually say “well this situation is some one else’s issue to address?”.

  • SadtoSee June 4, 2021 (7:47 am)

    The affected businesses and nearby residents have the patience of Job. I can’t say I would be as charitable at this point but wish there was an answer.  These people need help with housing, health care and particularly mental health counseling.

  • Um, No! June 4, 2021 (8:05 am)

    Inspiring leadership in action!   ” set out larger planters, perhaps.”   My gosh. 

  • coffee June 4, 2021 (8:06 am)

    I drive by this area 3 times a week and every single time I have witnessed drugs in use or sales.  They have even approached my car while stopped for the light.  I feel very bad for the businesses here, and I have to ask, planters were suggested for the sidewalks, who would fund that as they are not cheap to buy.

  • person or planter June 4, 2021 (8:35 am)

    Hope some neighbors will consider extending some kindness and seeing if the woman in the tent needs anything while she’s still there. Food, water, or anything to keep warm or dry of cooler days. Helping her meet immediate needs is kind and might help her in figuring out where to move. She might not be feeling well enough to move.

    • Adam June 4, 2021 (8:57 am)


    • Hottubless June 4, 2021 (9:11 am)

      Kindness?? or enabling…  sounds like she was offered shelter and didn’t take it.

      • person or planter June 4, 2021 (9:34 am)

        Enabling? Enabling a person to continue living in such rough conditions is not enabling… it’s helping them survive or feel better enough to find or accept another option or resources.

        Maybe this woman has stayed in shelters and has trauma from the experiences. It’s easy to judge when you have a distance from these issues and haven’t spoken with folks in these situations. Who knows what this woman has been through.

        People don’t camp on a sidewalk in White Center because it’s an attractive place to be. My guess is they literally feel they have no other place to be or where they feel safe to be.

      • person or planter June 4, 2021 (10:14 am)

        … interesting name @hottubless, I hope if you have a need for a hot soak, like for medical condition, you’re able to find an affordable option.

  • H June 4, 2021 (9:25 am)

    Lisa Herbold is really thinking outside of the box — put some planters down so it will be less attractive for tents.   How about give the police and social workers the power to enforce the law against camping on public property?   And she’ll probably win the next election in a landslide.

  • CuriousQuestioner June 4, 2021 (9:51 am)

    It seems like Seattle is constantly paralyzed by fear and indecision. Maybe I am wrong – I often am! But it does seem fear is the main culprit here. Afraid to make a decision on Light Rail (someone might be unhappy with our decision…we better form a committee to defuse responsibility for this), afraid to make a decision on homelessness (someone may accuse us of being cruel – we better create a committee to defuse responsibility on this). Just two examples that come to mind. In the meantime, everyone suffers. Anyone who has kids knows that sometimes you have to make unpopular decisions that are in the best interest of the kids and the family…and society. I think that lesson is lost in Seattle politics. 

    • Joe Z June 4, 2021 (10:36 am)

      Well said! 

    • Jort June 4, 2021 (1:43 pm)

      This is correct. You should learn about the “Seattle Process;” this is a good example of it. It diffuses responsibility so that nobody is accountable. It allows complicated situations to get mired in process and debate. It is a cancer on this city and it must go. 

    • person or planter June 4, 2021 (6:22 pm)

      Or maybe some issues and situations are more complicated than some are aware or can understand, and they are just trying to do the right thing, and not be cruel, while considering the needs and rights of all individuals- not just those with houses, and cars, and families -but all. Even a lone woman, in a tent, possibly with a drug addiction, and with two tents full of belongings. Her life matters too.

  • flimflam June 4, 2021 (10:02 am)

    It’s clear the city doesn’t have the stomach to handle these issues effectively. There is no reason to allow one person take over this space with their three tents. So if the city offers shelter the folks can just say, “nah” and that’s it?also, as someone else posted, if there was a virus/stomach bug why is the area no being cleaned and power washed?

    • Ant June 4, 2021 (10:40 am)

      There is literally a reason and its called the law. You are legally allowed to sleep in public places and cannot be arrested or prosecuted for doing so. If you dont like it you are more than welcome to run for office, propose a bill, and get said bill passed. Until then, come up with an actual solution.

  • My two cents … June 4, 2021 (11:21 am)

    Mr. McElroy summed it up with “photo op” given that Councilmember Herbold was there. Justification for working on behalf of the community but not actually doing any work apart from being seen.

  • South Delridge Resident June 4, 2021 (12:32 pm)

    Living in a tent on a sidewalk in White Center is not healthy or safe. It’s a jungle in these tent cities/camps. She should be removed for her own benefit. I also wonder about the encampment in South Delridge triangle park. I saw the campers sweeping piles of disgusting trash into heaps there. They also have stove pipes coming out of tents that can’t be up to code. camping in city without facilities is no way to live and poses a threat to communities with disease caused by unsanitary and filthy conditions. It seems like we would be doing everyone a favor by relocating campers to shelters or hospitals. 

  • John Branin June 4, 2021 (3:23 pm)

    The next area that needs dealt with is all the trailers parked the next block down from Walgreens. I’m sure the homeowners there would like to see that dealt with while the city officials are in the area…

    • Empm June 5, 2021 (9:11 am)

      The camp on Cambridge between 15th and 16th? Yes. I’ve been living with this for over a year. We (including my children) have witnessed countless fights, people openly relieving themselves on the sidewalk and in the street, blatant drug dealing, stolen bikes, needles and trash everywhere. Nighttime fights get worse when the weather is nice. The street is regularly blocked to traffic by cars double parking to buy drugs. We can see people climbing over the fence into the back yard of the house on the corner. We’ve seen the homeowners out arguing with people camping next to their property. We go out and pick up garbage and fill our garbage and recycling bins regularly with trash from this site at great personal cost.  And there is nothing we can do. Nothing. For quite a while it was just a couple of RVs who were reasonably respectful of our neighborhood. Not so now. We feel slighted by the city we pay incredibly high taxes to. We make an effort to maintain our property to keep our sidewalks and parking strips a trash and obstacle free area for people to walk on. Why is this not applicable to everyone living in our neighborhood?

  • skeeter June 4, 2021 (5:04 pm)

    What a mess.  I thought King County was going to create a group that would have responsibility for a coordinated *regional* response to homelessness.   This is so incredibly disorganized.  Lisa Herbold’s idea is to put some planters up.  Good grief.  This ineptitude isn’t totally her fault, though.  There needs to be one agency responsible for this and that agency needs to be at the county level, not the city level.

  • Sarcastic Observer June 4, 2021 (5:08 pm)

    Seattle and King Co. elected officials remind me of The Good Place committee from the TV show ‘The Good Place’ in season 3. None of them are willing to make any decisions even though they are supposed to be in charge. I’m pretty sure they even dress the same.

  • M.B. June 4, 2021 (6:04 pm)

    Suggesting blocking the sidewalk with planters to keep people from blocking it with tents. CLASSY, and totally not a solution those with mobility challenges would be benefited by.

  • WestCoastParenting June 4, 2021 (7:36 pm)

    I would think this is satire if I hadn’t lived in Seattle for 20 years.

  • Help All June 4, 2021 (8:51 pm)

    The east side  surely has capacity to take on some of the responsibility to re-home those who are house challenged.   This isn’t just a Seattle problem and should be tackled by our communities as a collective family. Let’s not keep pushing them around from street to street and instead find permanent housing solutions in our surrounding communities.  

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