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.