'We Heart Seattle' volunteers criticized for trash-picking efforts at homeless camps
"We Heart Seattle" volunteers have been asked to stand down for controversial trash-picking efforts.{ }

For the past year, Andrea Suarez said We Heart Seattle’s volunteers have made the distinction between personal belongs and trash.

“I would not go inside someone’s tent to pick this up,” Suarez said.

Her homeless outreach group has always asked campers for permission before clearing garbage at encampments across the city, like the one on Shilshole Avenue in Ballard. But Suarez said last week, Seattle City Councilmember Dan Strauss invited her on to a ZOOM call, then criticized her efforts.

“Sadly I was ambushed by many city agencies,” Suarez said.

She said officials from Seattle Parks and Recreation, Public Utilities, The Human Services Department, the HOPE team and REACH all asked her to stand down.

“They said we have it handled do not come back," Suarez said. "Do not come back."

Suarez said no one on the call told her why they were bringing up these concerns now. But said they emphasized a clean up plan was already in place.

"City staff organized the meeting to better create a coordinated response for the people living unsheltered in Ballard," said Chloe Gale, REACH director.

The Mayor’s office sent us a statement that reads in part: “It is important to remember that staff who work in and around encampments are highly trained in safety procedures in handling debris, needles, and hazardous materials. This is not work that the city encourages volunteers to take on.”

“Ad-hoc outreach can cause confusion, making it more difficult to move people inside," Strauss said.


But Doug Dixon with Pacific Fishermen Shipyard said most businesses in Ballard welcome the group’s on going efforts.

“A stand down at this point makes no sense,” Dixon said.

Critics have slammed “We Heart’s” tactics in the past. A volunteer had to apologize for accidentally going into a tent without permission, thinking it was empty.

Suarez said lessons have been learned and points out it is not illegal for average citizens to help clean up public property.

View This Story on Our Site
Load more...