Thursday, February 14, 2008

Shhh! Don't Tell the Advocates!

A May 18 memo that identified priorities for police action against homeless encampments got surfaced by a recent public disclosure request. A later list had a different set of priorities that included more purely urban encampments. These tend to be below freeways and visible from downtown highrises. Hard to tell where the focus is now, with so many clearances happening. Worse, the State, through the Department of Transportation, seems to have stepped up the pace of campsite clearances as well. Whatever level of coordination exists between city and state remains a mystery for now, but they seem mutually committed to placing all public space off-limits to survival activity.

Here's some questions that the document raises for me.
  • With campsites busting out all over the city (remember, this is just a list of the "worst" sites) and the shelters full, where were all of these people supposed to go? My sense is that no one in the Mayor's office much cared, and that they still don't.
  • Why was the City pursuing a clearance policy this aggressive with no protocols to guide them? Through the summer and fall, clearances were performed with little to no warning, no guidelines regarding possessions, no outreach, and no provision of alternatives. While the new protocols are quite clear on tightening the law to criminalize the use of public space for survival, they are equally open-ended and exception-ridden when it comes to the City's responsibility to campers. The goal seems to be to maintain the gloves off approach, while pretending to meet the concerns of advocates.
  • This list was generated by Parks Security Supervisor Larry Campbell in response to a request from Sgt. Paul Gracy. Where did Gracy's orders come from? Tim Ceis knows better than to put things like that in an email. And why the sudden interest? The City's been saying that over 2006-2007, street homelessness went down.
  • From the "This type of focus may create additional attention from homeless advocates," statement at the end, it's pretty clear that this was a below the radar operation. Yet it also implies an escalation. When did the Mayor's secret campsite clearance policy really start?
So many public disclosure requests to make. So little time.


susie said...

As you say, Tim, where were all of these people supposed to go? And as you also say, this is just the 10 Top list!! What a damning indictment of our city and of the people who run the city. Thousands of people trying to shelter in any corner of the city and the city/state waging a war against them and their survival. And doing it in secret! THIS IS IMMORAL!

Anonymous said...

The Parks Department has been out of control for the past couple of years. Clearing out all the plants too -- for fear someone could be sleeping under them! Under the guise of getting rid of "non-native species" they have torn out most of the bushes in Volunteer and other Parks leaving them bare to the street. It eventually caused such an uproar that the long time head of the Dept. was forced to resign. Now they are gearing up for a new levy!

Dryden01 said...

Evidently the Seattle Bolsheviks wish to use the homeless as pawns in their social injustice gambit. Someone should tell the city commissars to open the billion dollar stadiums and let the homeless set up camps where there is plenty of dry space and rest room facilities. Qwest Field is nicely located and convenient to jobs and city welfare offices.

Bill said...

Curious, a top ten list that numbers how many sites,...100? How much acreage does this really add up to? If the Mayor was on Letterman with this top ten list, he'd be cut out after about the second item on the list

Sally said...

So, what are we going to do? Talk about it for another few months? See what the city comes up with as a new "policy"? Have a camp-in every 2 or 3 months while they just keep doing this? I hear the talks with the City stalled.

Another guy was killed today, in Everett, by the DOT, in the brush. The newsreport said he was termed a "male transient." He could more reasonably and accurately described as a HUMAN BEING. This kind of thing happened in Seattle not too long ago, as you will remember, to a "male transient" named Isaac Palmer who is now dead because no one cared enough to find out that he was sleeping in the brush.

So, in Seattle, what are we going to do? And how soon?

Tim Harris said...

Ummm, Sally ... did you lose your passcode to the RCOP wiki?

Sally said...

Um, nope, didn't lose the passcode -- anymore than others commenting on here lost theirs. Are there things no one is supposed to say?

Tim Harris said...

Details and decisions in process are probably best kept to ourselves for now. And there are probably about 5 other things in the works to address the encampment issue beyond RCOP's work. I'm unclear on how public all of that is as well. So, what I can say now is that there will be a major day of downtown visibility with an overnight City Hall encampment on March 13. I'll post more about this later on.