Councilmember Lorena González issued the following statement regarding today’s upcoming decision to introduce legislation to revise the City’s encampment clear out policy:
“In two months, the City of Seattle will be recognizing the one-year anniversary of the declaration of a State of Emergency on Homelessness. Sadly, in the almost twelve months since that declaration, we are only slightly closer to making homelessness a one-time, short-lived experience. There are many reasons for a lack of progress, but it’s clear that the City’s current protocols on managing outdoor unsanctioned homeless encampments have come up short. Status quo is not acceptable. A new strategy for managing the growing encampments crisis in our city has never been more urgent.
“Today, I will vote in favor of introducing legislation that refers to the Human Services & Public Health Committee potential standards for when and how encampment sweeps may occur and requires the City either provide housing options or an alternative legal encampment location before evicting residents. The legislation was developed in consultation with advocacy organizations and homeless service providers who have direct experience in case management for the unsheltered, including the Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness, ACLU of Washington, Columbia Legal Services, Public Defender Association, Seattle Community Law Association, Real Change, and people experiencing homelessness. It is my expectation that this proposed legislation will undergo a robust legislative process that will include community engagement with businesses, neighborhood groups and homeless service providers. Introduction of this bill is not the final destination. It is, however, a bookend in the conversation I expect will unfold over the next several weeks.
“Simultaneously, the Mayor’s Unsanctioned Encampments Cleanup Protocols Task Force is a volunteer group of homeless and human services advocates, neighborhood groups and business owners who are meeting, on an expedited basis, to develop recommendations for new encampment clean up protocols. The Mayor has indicated that the task force will complete its work by the end of the month, and I believe that the task force’s recommendations will further assist in shaping this initial bill.
“September will be a busy month as we concurrently consider the legislation and the Mayor’s Task Force’s findings, and, although some may see both options working at cross-purposes, it’s my belief that these efforts will complement, not contradict, each other. By introducing the legislation today, we’re not precluding amendments from City Council or from the Mayor.
“As I consider the options for how to humanely deal with the almost 3,000 people living outside in Seattle, I also commit to listening to community concerns about the full spectrum of options that will come before City Council this month.
“I want to thank the volunteers on the Mayor’s Task Force, the Mayor and Councilmember Sally Bagshaw for their continued leadership in finding a balance that is swift, humane and sustainable.”