If you listen closely, you can hear the moment I decide to ignore Ross Reynolds' very interesting question to spend my dwindling time undermining the City's credibility.
Few realize that, in the absence of an approved policy, the City is continuing to aggressively clear sites just as before, with little to no notice or accountability. Real Change vendors have come in the last two days in a row with reports of returning to camp to find all of their survival gear and other belongings gone. No notice. No retrieval of belongings. and certainly no "outreach workers" or "shelter referrals."
So let's look at all that unused shelter capacity of which she spoke so assuredly. According to her latest newsletter there's 75 severe weather beds at City Hall and 25 for women at the Frye. Our analysis of those numbers shows City Hall Overflow with an average of 9 beds being open, and the women's beds being, on average, at capacity. During very severe weather, she says, there's a no-turnaway policy. What this actually means is that they start packing people into the rec room at the Union Hotel as well. Cool.
Between 2:30 and 5:30 am the Morning of January 5th, more than 2,600 people were counted surviving outside. 140 were counted in the overflow beds, which seems to have pretty much chewed up all that "capacity" she keeps talking about. The notion that they're checking to see if beds exist before clearing a camp, which she actually said, is ludicrous. I mean, how would that work? They clear the camps during the day. No one knows what few beds will be available where until they show up looking for shelter that night.
Let's see. What else.
She did this really cool thing with the phrase "personal property," which to most people sounds like the property that a person has. Not so. It's ID. Perhaps photos. Eyeglasses. Prescriptions. When you get right down to it, the list is really quite small.
An Encampment Workgroup Memo that turned up in one of our myriad public disclosure requests is quite clear on this point. "Any sleeping equipment (sleeping bags, cardboard, tents) found in the ROW may be disposed of immediately." This is obfuscated in the final with some lawyerly language about disposing of any "soft goods" that "may be contaminated with unknown substances."
This remains my favorite phrase in the document.
Interestingly, she did not say that the City now handles reports of encampments on a case-by-case basis, as she told the City Council last month and recently re-iterated in a communication to Nick Licata. This is probably because she got the December 11 email from Customer Service Bureau Director Darby DuComb.
"I am worried that we are getting confused.Thanks for clearing that up Darby. TC is of course Tim Ceis.
TC want us to respond to all clean ups requested by anyone from within the City or from external customers. We are NOT reviewing them on a case-by-case basis, we are responding as usual."
What else. She seemed positively shocked to hear that advocates discovered language in the proposal that would deputize anyone the city chooses with the power to hand out camping citations.
Let me help. It's on page 11 of 14 in the Rules document, in the Notices of Exclusion Section, under paragraph 6.3.1, related to "Delegation."
126.96.36.199 The authorizing official may also delegate to others the authority to enforce on City Property these and any other applicable written or posted rules, and to issue notices of exclusion for violations.Seems pretty clear to me. But I'm not a liar.
But the Big Lie is that the Mayor discovered that there were various departments with policies at odds with each other, and in his wisdom, directed his staff to seek consistency and compassion.
The internal documents clearly show that the Mayor's office had directed all City departments to aggressively clear encampments, and that the absence of a policy to guide this meant the gloves were completely off. It wasn't until their secret policy was uncovered that they bothered to consult City legal at all.
But here's the thing. The gloves are still off. Nothing has changed. This is their pathetic attempt to bring the law in line with existing practice, not, as would be perhaps more typical, the other way around. The painting up top, by the way, is by Rose Greenway, and is called The Liar comes bearing illusions, which we bear willingly.
But all in all, this was a good press day. In addition to a good airing of the issue on KUOW, The Stranger's Erica Barnett gets all weepy over Monday's hearing, and the Seattle PI's Editorial Board made some people I know positively giddy today with their take no prisoners 48 Hours to Scatter.
The urge to clean up parks and other areas serving as de-facto squats is an understandable one. No one likes to be faced with the misery of others. Hygiene and public safety issues with the living conditions of the homeless are certainly credible. But there's got to be a better way to address those concerns without making already-suffering human being feel like refuse. ...
City leaders should come up with a plan that focuses on making life for the homeless more, not less tolerable while building more shelters and housing for them.