Seattle's homeless encampment sweeps have been halted until the Mayor's office can create a policy under which "everyone can be respectful and preserve the possessions of people," says Human Services Director Al Poole in Tuesday's Seattle Post Intelligencer. Poole was amusingly, and incorrectly, identified as the City's HR manager. Who's copy editing over there? That's what I want to know?
Kery Murakami's excellent article quotes one homeless man who was a target of the city's "concern."
While the halting of Seattle's homeless sweeps is a start, the City response falls far short of the demands raised by the Real Change Organizing Project.
At a free-lunch distribution earlier this month in a parking lot under Interstate 5 at Sixth Avenue and Columbia Street, Austin Rusnek, who carried his possessions in a backpack and was eating a sandwich, said he left his camp in Kinnear Park on the west side of Queen Anne one day in mid-October.
When he returned hours later, his tent and his sleeping bag were gone. So were pictures of his children.
"They were the only pictures of them I had," Rusnek, 36, said.
No outreach funds were included in the recent city budget. Adequate alternatives for homeless campers have not been identified. And the Mayor's office insists on developing policy in secret and without the input of human service advocates. In the past week more than 1,000 people have signed Real Change's petition that the City halt clearances until these goals are met.
SHARE/WHEEL, weirdly, has set their sights a good deal lower, and simply wants the city to provide porta-potties and dumpsters to homeless campers. Maybe people are supposed to live in these? It seems we should be able to do better.
Until the city can — with a straight face — answer the question of just where homeless people targeted by campsite clearances are supposed to go, their "policy" will simply be a more polite version of the same message: Get Out of Town.
I was at an event in Everett the other night where an activist said the numbers of homeless people in Snohomish County seems to be rising lately. I have a pretty good idea why.
Governments of neighboring areas might want to tell our Mayor that pushing the homeless around doesn't solve things. It only drives people further from the help they need, and exacerbates homelessness in other communities. Or maybe the Mayor already knows this, and he just doesn't care.