City Re: Homeless Encampments
posted by January 16 at 15:53 PMon
Erica’s post on Monday—about the City’s upcoming meetings on homeless encampments—reminded me that I’d actually been to a few over the summer, and had some photos lying around on my hard drive.
Last July, Community Police Team Sergeant Paul Gracy took me to a camp on the east side of Queen Anne, tucked back in the woods above Highway 99.
It was a long, slippery, difficult trudge up a muddy hillside. There were piles of garbage, bottles, plastic sheets and other unidentifiable items along a steep “trail,” which eventually lead to a clearing. Sort of.
Gracy said this was one of the larger encampments, and had been cleared out by city teams before. No one was home but there were sleeping bags laying around, so the space was clearly “in use.”
Indeed, it also appeared that whoever lived there was also using the space as a makeshift art studio.
When the city comes in to these camps, they toss everything. Art, sleeping bags, clothes. There is obviously an argument to be made that these camps pose a health hazard. There were a half-dozen full buckets of urine strewn around the camp, and there were knee-high piles of garbage in some spots. There was also pile of burned Barbie dolls.
Gracy told me that he offers services to people he encounters when out walking the woods, but is often rebuffed. He also said SPD isn’t equipped to act as both a law enforcement agency and social services. Still, he was warm, cordial and friendly to the few folks we encountered at another park on the other side of Queen Anne.
Obviously, there isn’t going to be some easy catch-all to solve Seattle’s homeless problem. However, banning homeless people from city parks is just going to move the problem around. These people are still going to need somewhere to go.