VIDEO: ‘We’re your team.’ Outreach workers, WSDOT, city explain how they’ll ‘resolve’ encampment across Myers Way from Arrowhead Gardens

(Video of Arrowhead Gardens meeting, recorded by John Walling)

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

“We will resolve this. It’s not going to be tomorrow, it’s not going to be next week, but it’s not going to be next year.”

That was the promise made Tuesday night to Arrowhead Gardens residents by Lisa Daugaard, whose organization is leading the in-person outreach to 48 people living in the encampment across Myers Way from the senior-living complex. She and colleague Nichole Alexander provided granular details of what’s ahead in the plan to move people out of the encampment.

It’s on a site that’s mostly state land, right-of-way for Highway 509 downslope to the east, so Washington State Department of Transportation reps led the meeting, which also was attended by city reps including Councilmember Lisa Herbold and a delegation from the Southwest Precinct.

(L-R at the table, Lisa Daugaard and Nichole Alexander from PDA, SPD’s Lt. Dorothy Kim, Councilmember Lisa Herbold)

Before an hour of Q&A, there was a half-hour of updates, starting with WSDOT officials trying to explain what will make this different from past clearances of the area.

First, Brian Nielsen said a new factor is the state’s Right of Way Safety Initiative – a state-local partnership currently active in five counties; $50 million is allocated to King County, primarily for shelter/housing initiatives. So far, he said, eight large sites have been resolved (here’s some info from last spring), with 324 people placed in housing and more than three-fourths of them still there. He said the program’s focus is to “transition people to safer housing” that is “well matched to an individual’s assessed needs,” because people shunted off to “congregate shelters” usually wind up living unsheltered again.

Nielsen said the list of 48 people on whom outreach workers are focusing is “closed,” and that new people who show up are “turned away.’ He also clarified that the 48 people are those living closest to Myers Way, “on top of the hill,” not necessarily people living closer to 509. He said the notices we showed earlier today – warning that vehicular access to the site will be blocked starting today (Wednesday) – were actually posted Friday along with no-parking signs.

(Photo courtesy Diane Radischat)

After the access blocking, they’ll turn to a focus of identifying and tagging abandoned tents for removal, while outreach providers continue their work. After people are moved into housing, WSDOT will move onto the site. Nielsen warned that it’ll be “difficult” to secure so they have to figure out a strategy for preventing “re-encampment.” Some vegetation will be removed to improve sightlines. They won’t be able to “fully resolve the site until” they have enough housing for everyone.

So, bottom line, no definitive timeline – they won’t be able to “fully resolve the site” until they have enough housing for everyone who’s there. But Nielsen implored the residents “to trust in the process …Our initiative takes time.” He said they’ve seen a 90 percent acceptance rate for services because they take time to know people and place them per their needs.

To provide more details on that, the microphone went to Daugaard from PDA (Purpose Dignity Action). She said her organization’s work has evolved since 2020, when they noticed the “enormous growth in visible encampments adjacent to where people were trying to live and do business .. and it was not viable.” They figured out what it would take to get people to go inside, and they are still operating four facilities, mainly downtown. “This is where many of the people who are living here are going to go.” PDA reps go into a situation that is “chaotic, dangerous sometimes, where people have very little trust … Often the folks who are out there have been kicked out of other places … so many people living in encampments now are chronically homeless and not welcome (in various places).” She says PDA has done this 24 times since fall 2020, often in larger places, like 85 people in City Hall Park, 65 in the Dearborn I-5 cloverleaf. “When we started it was like this (site is now) … when we ended, there was nobody living there.” She said this could have been done sooner – if housing was availabl, but there’s more coming online next month.

PDA’s Alexander explained how the boots-on-ground outreach works. She and her team are often there toting wagons, every morning Monday-Friday, to talk with the people there – “We know this site is hard for everybody and we want to appropriately plan for each person” so they go to see what people are like, what their living circumstances are, “so we can start to plan” for that person’s needs. Sometimes SPD or WSP might be with them, as was the case when they put up the postings. “We don’t want anything to take anyone by surprise.”

Next to speak was Lt. Dorothy Kim, second-in-command at the SW Precinct. “Although it does take a long time … I believe it’s a stronger process than we had before … The end is in sight.” Right now SPD is answering 911 calls and “responding to criminal activity.” Lt. Kim said the May murder at the site is not solved yet but is still an “active investigation.” 22 stolen vehicles have been recovered in the area, including two with gunfire damage .. officers believe many of those vehicles “have eluded officers when they tried to stop them” – Several recent arrests were made for suspected crimes including stolen vehicles, domestic violence, and failure to register as a sex offender As police say at every community meeting: “Call 911 when you see criminal activity.” SPD will work with State Patrol going forward, as with the 2nd/Michigan site by the 1st Avenue South Bridge, and after this is cleared, they’ll be sure to have proper documentation so they can enforce trespassing laws and be sure the site is not “re-encamped.”

Then Councilmember Herbold spoke briefly, noting that the PDA team has been successful in West Seattle before, including the South Delridge sidewalk encampment cleared two years ago.”This is an approach that addresses a person’s underlying needs … medical, substance use, mental health …” She acknowledged the frustration with the time it has taken but she assured everyone that this process works.

Then the floor opened to Q&A from the dozens of residents filling the room.

First person asked the outreach workers if they are aware, when they enter the camp, of who’s using drugs and who has weapons. Alexander said they definitely work with some people who are active substance users and “many of us have lived experience with that.” Regarding weapons, Daugaard noted, “People are living in conditions where they have to defend themselves – often you need to thoughtfully evaluate if a person has a weapon, have they ever had to use it for self-defense,” perhaps they’re armed because they’re trying not to be victimized.

The next question also was for them, regarding how much of the site they routinely visit. Alexander replied, “We definitely get our steps in … we go in from top to bottom, all the way from the corner to the church, to the gravel lot where there were some campers … ” They cover a lot of ground and do find ‘hidden’ folks.

Some people offered comments rather than questions, such as a woman who said she’s from Los Angeles, which has a longstanding problem with homelessness, but here she is hearing suspected gunfire often. “If I wantee to go through this kind of thing, I could have stayed in LA.”

Then, a reminder that this isn’t the first encampment across Myers Way (here’s our coverage of a clearance five years ago). “You’re going to go through all this work, put up barriers, no trespassing signs, then more people are going to move in, what are you going to do to prevent that?” That got applause. WSDOT’s Nielsen insisted it would be different this time, with plans to secure the site and work with law enforcement; he said none of the sites they’ve cleared in the past year have been re-occupied. That includes 2nd/Michigan, Lt. Kim noted. A WSDOT rep who hadn’t spoken until then, Ron Judd, said they’d come back for a conversation with residents about different ways to use the site to keep it from reoccupation. A few minutes later, AG resident and meeting facilitator Diane Radischat called him on that, saying they had asked WSDOT before to do something useful with the site “and you guys simply blew us off.” Judd reiterated that it’ll be different this time.

Another resident observed, “There’s a certain percentage of people who don’t want your help, what do you do with those folks who say go away, we don’t want you?” PDA’s Daugaard insisted – to skeptical groans from the residents – that it’s a very low number, “not zero,” but 10 percent maximum. She said they work intensively to figure out “what can we do for this person?” and ultimately, “We’re not going to lose that many people.” Councilmember Herbold jumped in to say, yes, some people have not accepted offers in the past, but this program has access to resources that weren’t being offered before, particularly housing that is more than a cot on the floor in congregate shelters. Alexander added that they don’t just contact someone once and give up if they’re not initially receptive, they go back again and again.

A subsequent question focused on some of the site activities that have drawn double takes recently, and wondered why this intervention wasn’t available sooner. After explaining that they just got the assignment a few weeks ago, Daugaard declared, “There won’t be a pool there when this is over.” Some people living outside like this do hard-to-believe things, she agreed, but “The reason we do this work is that … it needs to come to an end.” She also tried to make the residents understand that “You’re winning. There are many, many other encampments that could qualify for this work, but we’re not going there, we’re going here – for right now, we’re your team.”

Property manager Jackie Williams warned, “We’re going to hold every last one of you accountable,” saying the encampment has affected the complex in myriad ways – they were cited for a rat infestation that the encampment likely worsened, for example. And worse: “We’re calling the police because we need help – nine times out of 10 they don’t do anything – (encampment residents/visitors) come here and steal my residents’ cars out of the garage, siphoning gas – come do a day in the life of a resident, understand what they’re going through.” Cheers ensued.

And a resident followed to say, “I did not move here to hear gunshots shot at my window every night, I did not move here to see prostitution (at all hours) – we want to know, when was the last time your house was shot at … they’re the ones you are giving all the aid to, when are you going to care about us?” She was one of several residents to make similar complaints.

What about the encampment resident who was reported to have declared she’s not going anywhere? Daugaard said that at the start of a project like this, that’s what they often hear – often they have an “extreme” life experience that the outreach workers have to get to the heart of. But, to the previous person’s point, Daugaard continued, “this IS us caring about y’all – we don’t HAVE TO do this work – we are doing this work because you deserve to have a response that works – we will figure out what needs to happen.”

Other concerns and questions included environmental damage to an area that contains Hamm Creek’s headwaters, thefts from patios and gardens – “so many things have been stolen around here, we can’t afford to replace them” – and whether people are required to get drug or mental-health treatment before they can be housed (short answer – required, no, encouraged, yes; the housing into which they move people isn’t permanent, but is meant for “eight to nine months”).

Perhaps the most unusual question of the meeting was a personal question for the women from PDA: What degrees do they have? Alexander said she had just completed a master’s and was going for a dectorate, adding that her background also includes teenage motherhood, nine years in recovery, and 10 years in prison. Daugaard: “I’m a lawyer, I just have a JD.”

Shortly thereafter, the meeting concluded with all the officials – including several who didn’t speak – staying to talk one-on-one with residents.

WHAT’S NEXT: As noted, vehicular access to the site is supposed to be blocked off starting today; we’ll be checking the area to see what exactly is to be done. Outreach work will then continue, and when everyone’s placed, WSDOT closes the area and cleans it up. “We are focused on resolving this site,” WSDOT’s Kris Abrudan repeated.

ADDED 10:08 AM: More than half a dozen WSDOT vehicles are at the site placing jersey barriers:

They’re working south of the area across from Arrowhead Gardens where numerous vehicles are still visible, so it’s hard to tell how many, if any, heeded the notice to move their vehicles before today.

44 Replies to "VIDEO: 'We're your team.' Outreach workers, WSDOT, city explain how they'll 'resolve' encampment across Myers Way from Arrowhead Gardens"

  • Rhonda July 19, 2023 (2:27 am)

    Such nonsense and excuses. The site should already be in clean-up/decontamination phase by now with foliage restoration beginning soon after. What’s been allowed to happen on this site…..a murder, overdoses, drug dealers in and out, stolen vehicles, hazardous material dumping, a man beaten nearly to death by bikers… outrageous. If seniors at a housing center can be terrorized for several months by squatting criminals then no neighborhood in Seattle near a vacant public land parcel is safe.

    • James July 19, 2023 (10:28 am)

      Wait til you hear about the crimes housed people commit. 

      • junctionjunky July 19, 2023 (2:34 pm)

        I bet if James had a housed neighbor where active drug dealing or other shady activity was happening that he would feel uneasy/unsafe.  I’d also bet that James wouldn’t hesitate to call the cops on his housed neighbor for any number of much more minor crimes than anything that’s happening at the Myers Way encampment. The issues happening at the Myers Way encampment are not bad because they involve unhoused people.  Those issues(drug dealing, murder, fights, etc) are bad no matter who is involved, housed or unhoused. 

        • 1994 July 19, 2023 (10:46 pm)

          Spot on ! Thanks for pointing out common sense is still common sense! Bad behavior is bad behavior no matter the human’s status in our community.

          • James July 20, 2023 (12:57 pm)

            But to you, “Bad behavior” = being poor. Which is wrong.

      • Alki resident July 19, 2023 (3:32 pm)

        What’s that have to do with city green belts being damaged and stolen cars all over the place? 

  • Lauren July 19, 2023 (6:13 am)

    This sounds very hopeful. The PDA org sounds like a positive thing for everyone involved. 

  • flimflam July 19, 2023 (7:27 am)

    ugh. Lisa Daugaard being involved is a massive red flag. I feel so bad for the Arrowhead residents, simply trying to live out their last years in peace. Nobody really did answer the question about what to do about campers that refuse help – will they let this mess drag on indefinitely just because of a few stragglers refusing?

    • nwpolitico July 19, 2023 (10:42 am)

      That she basically defended campers possessing weapons is quite telling.

      • WestSeattleBadTakes July 19, 2023 (12:25 pm)

        That she basically defended campers possessing weapons is quite telling.

        Telling of what exactly? I carry weapons at times and I am sure many who live here do.

        • Appalled July 19, 2023 (12:52 pm)

          WSBT- so are you advocating for the senior citizens to start packing a weapon to safely walk their dog?

        • Appalled July 19, 2023 (2:12 pm)

          WSBT- If this hellhole was across the street from an elementary school should kindergarteners gear up in body armor to go outside for recess? Should the proper use of weapons be part of their curriculum to feel safe at school? Both are vulnerable populations. 

        • nwpolitico July 19, 2023 (2:42 pm)

          That she’s not particularly concerned with the physical safety of AG residents or the campers. Generally, it’s not great for public safety when people in various states of serious psychological tumult possess weapons.

          • WestSeattleBadTakes July 19, 2023 (4:15 pm)

            We’ve got housed people in psychological tumult and possessing weapons committing crimes everyday. You care about the performance of public safety and not what actually makes the public safe.

    • agree July 19, 2023 (12:58 pm)

      Yes, this is a funny quote, it sounds like something from an SNL skit:“We will resolve this. It’s not going to be tomorrow, it’s not going to be next week, but it’s not going to be next year.”If I went to my boss with a proposal to solve a problem in this manner, I’d probably be fired, and rightfully so.

  • Kim July 19, 2023 (7:53 am)

    Totally disgusting to have to deal with all that crap and feeling of not safe when you are a person who is living in a senior housing apartment.  I guess people who live in our community know what is in store for them when they are elderly. 

    • snowskier July 19, 2023 (10:57 am)

      You forgot to mention that its a fixed income senior housing apartment.  The city and state really have prioritized the lawless over elders who have lived good, peaceful, honest but not opulent lives and wish to enjoy their golden years in peace.  

      • aa July 19, 2023 (1:25 pm)

        Lets get a grip on  this residents ‘living out their last years’  storyline.  Arrowhead gardens is for people 61+. I support their right to be safe, and I want readers to know living in a facility like this is comprised of people of ages 61 and  up.  I would imagine many are still working, not on deaths door as old feeble people.

        • WestSeattleBadTakes July 19, 2023 (5:00 pm)

          But we love them so much, we let them live in an industrial park! Clearly top notch for their final days.

          • aa July 19, 2023 (8:56 pm)

            When you are 62, or if you are already there, do you consider it your final days?  I agree its not a nice area – for anyone of any age, I am asking people to rethink this false notion that the residents  of senior housing are old feeble people living out their last days. 

  • nwpolitico July 19, 2023 (8:05 am)

    There is nothing in the Right of Way Initiative to require that all individuals illegally trespassing on the Myers Way site receive permanent or semi-permanent housing.  WSDOT could close the encampment legally, ethically, and swiftly today with referrals to available permanent or semi-permanent housing and congregate shelters. Instead, WSDOT is dragging its feet just like it did at the Ship Canal Bridge/Pasadena site and other rights of way, to the detriment of public safety, environmental stewardship, and the well-being of generally law-abiding neighbors.

    Problem is, that Right of Way Initiative money flows through non-profits which are not incentivized to solve problems quickly, as that would turn off their money spigot from the state. See Jewels Helping Hands in Spokane (the designated non-profit in charge of Camp Hope) for how long these things can take when urgency is not incentivized. Folks who want to evade the law know they can camp on state land with far less consequence than camping on city property, and this is the inevitable result.

    • WS Res July 19, 2023 (9:37 am)

      But if they do that, people will just go camp elsewhere. Why are you so eager to undermine a process that works to get people housed?

      • HappyCamper July 19, 2023 (11:06 am)

        I think the point is that if the process were cleaned up and more expedient that would be known by the people that stall and move and refuse help. I’m all for helping people but I do think it should be known that the public does not have an unlimited amount of patience, tolerance (or money) for unacceptable behavior that would be considered criminal for the rest of society.It seems to be common knowledge you can DRASTICALLY wear out your welcome somewhere to the extreme. Then finally get forced to accept housing or relocate. At that point many of these people just move a few blocks and make the lengthy bureaucratic process start over. They then repeat as necessary in perpetuity to avoid any real change in their situation.It’s a bad and complicated situation but I personally think we can be empathetic and not tolerate violence, crime, etc at the same time. That doesn’t seem outlandish to me, seems outlandish to not look at it that way actually.

      • momosmom July 19, 2023 (11:36 am)

        @WS Res,   “But if they do that, people will just go camp elsewhere. Why are you so eager to undermine a process that works to get people housed?”Yes it looks like it’s working very well NOW doesn’t it? …………NOT!

        • WSB July 19, 2023 (11:41 am)

          If the story wasn’t clear: The outreach team from PDA says they only recently started work at this site and they and WSDOT have collaborated on eight others. As we also noted in the story, this is the same outreach team that worked to get the South Delridge sidewalk encampment cleared two years ago. They are by no means accountable for every site in the city. – TR

  • Andrew July 19, 2023 (8:36 am)

    It’s extremely hard to help someone who doesn’t want to help themselves.

    • WS Res July 19, 2023 (9:36 am)

      And that’s why they do this work, to reach the hard-to-reach people.

      • Anne July 19, 2023 (10:36 am)

        They should have contacted  those “ hard-to-reach” people months & months ago & the  plans to rehouse should have already been in motion-especially since drug treatment is NOT a requirement. 

    • James July 19, 2023 (10:29 am)

      And it’s important to remember you cannot force anyone. We should not sacrifice freedom. That is a slippery slope.

      • yes to freedom July 19, 2023 (1:03 pm)

        Surely we can figure out ways to enforce the laws we’ve agreed upon as a civil society though. I think criminals sacrifice some personal freedom when they decide to live outside the law.  And if folks disagree with the laws, engage in the political process to change them.  It happens all the time, like the changes in SFO to accommodate criminals.    

      • 1994 July 19, 2023 (10:56 pm)

        But the functioning community is being forced to put up with this crap! because the unhoused have their civil liberties and their rights. What about the civil liberties and rights of the functioning people who end up paying hundreds of millions of tax money for years of crap?  We are forced to witness shop lifting, drugs, assaults, have things stolen….sigh, some of us are getting worn out with all this and our sympathy or empathy gets worn out. The social contract of good behavior and personal responsibility seems to have broken.

      • Steve July 20, 2023 (12:03 am)

        You can’t force them? How is it legal to camp, leave waste, etc on state property.Seems to me we need triage. Reagan got rid of national network of psychiatric hospitals. Have to bring them back. Some people are seriously mentally challenged and it’s safer/ethical to have them somewhere safe. Not ideal but far better going between streets and jail. Drug addicts (I know tons of this is due to the Sackler family which created OxyContin. They should have all their assets stripped and used to help drug treatment programs.) need treatment. Seems unethical to allow people to refuse treatment. Can’t just allow people to be addicts roaming the streets.For the working poor, we need some form of support to help with costs of living. It shouldn’t be ‘If you make more than X amount you get no help.’ We have an inequality problem and it’s better to help people stay in their homes and not starving.A common sense balance of order and humanity. If we can afford so many billion dollar aircraft we can afford to help people make ends meet and not go hungry.

  • Marcus July 19, 2023 (10:27 am)

    The below two quotes from Daugaard seem to sum up her attitude towards the people who AG residents who were at this meeting. You are lucky we are deciding to do this work and that you are lucky we decided to do this location rather than some other location. Sounds like she puts up road blocks and then being the one to want the praise for removing them.She also tried to make the residents understand that “You’re winning. There are many, many other encampments that could qualify for this work, but we’re not going there, we’re going here – for right now, we’re your team.”Daugaard continued, “this IS us caring about y’all – we don’t HAVE TO do this work – we are doing this work because you deserve to have a response that works – we will figure out what needs to happen.”

  • anonyme July 19, 2023 (10:29 am)

    I would suggest that anyone who is that “hard to reach” should be placed somewhere easy to reach – jail.

    • James July 20, 2023 (1:00 pm)

      Jailing addicts is something Texas does and the crime posts have just moved the new bottom tier of society. This. Does. Not. Work. Stop jailing people for being poor!! I prefer not living in a fascist government.

  • Actually Mike July 19, 2023 (12:29 pm)

    Went past the north end of this mess this morning and noticed that campers have begun moving in a rag-tag caravan around the corner onto Cloverdale, which sets up a likely parking brouhaha with truckers who haul stuff for the Port–many of whom moved over there from Myers Way a few weeks ago following an earlier round of Not Our Job among various officials and agencies. An older woman was shuffling down the hill with a shopping cart full of stuff in trash bags. Seems like one big game of pass the buck between the city, the county, the state and the Port. Nice work, y’all–that’s why you folks get the big bucks, right?

  • Tired of the BS July 19, 2023 (1:49 pm)

    It’s seems like a good old game of Whac-A-Mole. It boggles my mind how we pay the City and the County millions of dollars clearing encampments and we don’t get lasting results.  I truly wonder if these people and organizations (Lisa Daugaard/PDA, et al) are only in it for the money.  I’d really like to see the Seattle Times follow the money on homelessness to find out who is really profitting from our tax dollars. 

    • The King July 19, 2023 (5:44 pm)

      “This is our plan to end homelessness” – Seattle 2005. Just like another plan called Zero Vision or something to end traffic deaths, they’ve managed to make the statistics worse as every year passes. 

    • This "Team" Failed July 20, 2023 (11:21 am)

      I fear the “team” failed to read the room.I agree that many of the people in encampments had “extreme” life experiences. However, it is statistically probable that some of those living at Arrowhead Gardens also had “extreme” life experiences. Has anyone considered that veterans almost certainly live at Arrohowhead Gardens, and that hearing frequent gunshots could worsen PTSD? Or that sexual assault victims almost certainly live at Arrowhead Gardens, and that the fear of sexual violence caused by their proximity to the encampment would be traumatizing to them? What about those at Arrowhead Gardens who have experienced domestic violence, childhood abuse, or are trying to maintain sobriety? Maybe the encampment causes them mental harm. Because the residents’ trauma is hidden, does it not matter? Where were the services for those at Arrowhead Gardens whose experience of the encampment was not merely NIMBY, but hellish? The “team” believes that because Arrowhead Gardens residents they are functioning, they are not traumatized. This is horrifying, and they need to make this right. If this “team” of people wants to help Arrowhead Gardens, maybe they need to apologize for their lack of empathy, recognize that Arrowhead Gardens residents are also experiencing genuine pain (and in some cases are being retraumatized), and figure out what they need. 

  • Jim P. July 19, 2023 (3:02 pm)

    ““We will resolve this. It’s not going to be tomorrow, it’s not going to be next week, but it’s not going to be next year.””
    Always some time in the vague future.

    The place appears to be a hotbed of criminal activity as described but everyone is just being so nice to them and trying to coax them to be nice people.

    Maybe time to go back to a firmer stance: “Here’s our offer to help you. If you decline it you have 72 hours to move along.

    Decline help three times and you’re now a legal vagrant and can be escorted to jail or to the county line, your choice. Oh and you can sober up or clear out also.

    Compassion only goes so far when your own peace and safety are at risk and the cost to appease these people keeps climbing.

    • Community Member July 19, 2023 (6:06 pm)

      Jim – It’s been over 50 years since vagrancy laws were thrown out because they violate the US Constitution. 

      • Kelly July 21, 2023 (11:59 pm)

        But there’s still trespassing laws for those who commit crimes on public property. 

  • Scarlett July 20, 2023 (9:11 am)

    Just a reminder:  The homeless don’t start illegal wars; the homeless don’t sell billions of dollars worth of consumer products and then lie about their safety; the homeless didn’t scam the treasury out of tens of billions of dollars off PPP loans; the homeless don’t purchase stock in companies that are contributing to the deterioration of society.  

    There is a phrase called the “banality of evil,” and most of those responsible for the real damage to society, unwittingly or not, are not the homeless but upstanding – even good – people who go to work, pay their taxes, go to church, and probably even donate to charity.  Sometimes this is simply staying quiet when injustice is taking place.  I see examples of this on both sides of the political aisle. Keep this in the back of your mind while you are expressing your irritation even anger with the homeless.  

Sorry, comment time is over.