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Seattle proposes new rules for removal of unauthorized homeless encampments

The city of Seattle wants all of its department to follow the same protocols when it comes to removing unauthorized encampments from city property. (Photo: KOMO News)

SEATTLE - The city of Seattle wants all of its department to follow the same protocols when it comes to removing unauthorized encampments from city property.

It’s now put out to public review a list of revised rules for the departments to follow. The rules are intent to balance health and safety concerns without disrupting the lives of people who are living on the street.

Since 2008, Seattle has had specific rules regarding removals but given the dramatic increase of unsheltered encampments, Mayor Ed Murray in 2106 formed a Task Force on Unsanctioned Encampment Cleanup Protocols to recommend updates.

In a release from the Department of Finance and Administrative Services, that agency that oversees encampment cleanups, the new rules would "identify specific criteria for prioritizing the removal of encampments” and “require the offer of a shelter alternative in order to remove many encampments."

The proposed rules also require the city to deliver possessions confiscated during a cleanup back to their owners, including a possible "homeless prime delivery" option.

While the city doesn’t call it that, the proposed rules allow the owner of the collected possessions to ask the city to deliver the items to the individual anywhere in the city limits within one day of the request. Sometimes it could be delivered on the same day.

“They’ve taken allot of my stuff,” said David Schaeffer who’s pitched his tent between Dearborn Avenue and Interstate 90. He said he’s lost items to several city cleanups.

Possessions left behind during a cleanup are bagged by city workers and stored at a city run container off Airport Way in South Seattle until its owner picks them up.

“It’s a big inconvenience when everybody comes back a few days later and it starts over again," said Schaeffer. He likes the idea of having his belonging returned to him where he decides to camp again.

“That’s a good idea, I’m fine with that," said Tamrat Kassley, who also said he’s been pitching his tent on the sidewalk underneath Interstate 5 and Dearborn for the last six months.

The new rules would require the city to “offer” a shelter alternative before a sweep is made. Those that have refused shelter in the past would can be excluded from the offer.

“Compared to the shelter and street, I’m fine in the street. I get sick in the shelter,” said Kassley

The proposed rules will also speed up the process for removing encampments that obstruct the intended use of a public right of way, like sidewalks and parks.

Public comments on the proposed rules will be taken until February 15.

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