Green Lake camp withdrawn days before Christmas, after months of political pressure
Just days before Christmas and the arrival of a new mayor at City Hall, Seattle clean-up crews and parking officials pulled an encampment Monday morning in Green Lake Park that the surrounding neighborhood has been talking about. for much of the year.
Mayor Jenny Durkan, during his last months in office, regularly removed Seattle’s large settlements. A statement from his office presented Monday’s withdrawal as part of a new strategy in the era of the pandemic where everyone in the camp is offered shelter or accommodation, and outreach staff work during times of the pandemic. months to ensure that as many people as possible travel there safely before clearing the camp.
But supporters of this new method were reluctant to accept. Less than half of those in the camp were referred to small houses or shelters, and at least 10 simply moved their tents and belongings – many of them, according to one camper, up the hill. to Woodland Park where a large encampment still extends. It is not known when this camp will be removed.
After two large-scale camp shutdowns earlier this month that received praise for moving large numbers of residents to shelters, tiny homes or other accommodation, the Green Lake Glade has emerged more close to those before the pandemic, when police would give homeless campers a few days notice, and most campers would simply move to the next park.
People who live near or use the park have complained for months as the camp has grown.
Although Seattle Police statistics for the surrounding area show crime is slightly lower this year than last, neighbors like Kyle Oswald, who lives less than a mile away, said it certainly looks like crime had increased as the encampment had grown. He has had propane tanks and outdoor seat cushions stolen from his backyard in the past year.
Oswald wishes campers weren’t forced to leave during Christmas week, but blames city leaders for refusing to deal with the issue for so long.
“My disagreement is with the city council and the mayor deciding this for years and years,” Oswald said.
Mayor-elect Bruce Harrell held a press conference on Encampment Street in September before winning the election on a platform partly focused on keeping parks away from encampments.
Harrell, who takes office next month, said in a statement that it was inhuman for people to live in parks without sanitation, running water and access to the services necessary to restore life and stability, and this removal was a step in that direction.
“We cannot allow this crisis to continue to worsen,” the statement from Harrell said. âMy priority from day one will be to harness the resources we have to help restore lives, while restoring parks, public places and public trust in Seattle. “
Council member Dan Strauss was heavily involved in the Ballard Commons move earlier this month, where the vast majority of people living in tents were not only referred to shelter, but the city and its partners ensured that that they actually move in. Strauss said he didn’t know enough about the town’s removal tactics to say if Green Lake was having the same process.
On two occasions, the date for cleaning up Ballard Commons was pushed back, Strauss said, as there were still campers who wanted to get inside but a suitable shelter had not yet opened.
âThe success of this removal was that we weren’t rushing to close the park,â Strauss said.
Lisa Daugaard, a leading New Approach evangelist and executive director of the Public Defender Association, was also not involved in the pullout and declined to say if this was the type of pullout she coordinated at City Hall Park and Eighth Avenue South and King Street earlier this year, among others.
Daugaard said that one of the amazing things about Ballard Commons and Bitter Lake was the number of hotels and villages with small houses that were opening up during the days when outreach workers offered alternatives to the outdoors. – and more than the long delays, these new beds were the reasons for this success.
“So without the proper range of options, there’s no way to accomplish the kind of camp resolution that every once in a while [our partnership] was able to bring, âsaid Daugaard.
Stacia Murphy, who lived at Green Lake Camp for four months, said she woke up to town crews telling people to leave this morning. She had accepted a recommendation to move into a small house on Friday, but staff could not find her that day when they came to camp. She missed her chance and someone else took her place, she said.
Murphy blames this and said living conditions at the Green Lake encampment have deteriorated in recent months as more people have moved in and stopped picking up their trash. But she still felt pained by the push.
âThey literally had to do it before Christmas,â Murphy said. âThis is what hurts me the most.