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Seattle Public Schools won't remove homeless encampment behind school before first day

Seattle Public Schools won't remove homeless encampment behind school before first day
Seattle Public Schools won't remove homeless encampment behind school before first day
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BITTER LAKE, Wash. - Seattle Public Schools says the encampment behind Broadview Thomson K-8 School will not be removed before classes start on Sept. 1.

The troubled camp has been located directly behind the school on district property for more than a year.

Neighbors say it’s caused increased crime and problems in their community.

Teachers, parents and neighbors have been calling for its removal for months.

In July, the district said its goal was to have the camp removed before the school year started.

On Wednesday, Anything Helps, the nonprofit that partnered with the district to provide services and support to campers said 55 people were still living in tents on the property.

“I wish the school district would prioritize students and make students their number one concern,” said Ryle Goodrich, a parent, after learning the camp would not be removed by next week.

Anything Helps say it’s been able to move 38 people out of the camp since July, but teachers say more resources are needed.

“What we really need is for the City of Seattle to step in and prioritize working with this encampment and finding relocation options for campers,” said Alicia Nicas who is a teacher at Broadview Thomson K-8 who spoke to KOMO News as a voice for the staff and teachers at the school.

Nicas points to the district’s enormous task of bringing thousands of students back to the classroom amid a pandemic and challenges that come with it, adding more help is needed with the encampment.

In late June we asked Mayor Jenny Durkan – after she called on the district to remove the camp – if the city planned to help.

“They have a plan to remove that encampment by the beginning of the school year using outreach services, and we are working with them on doing that,” Durkan told KOMO News on June 26.

We asked the Mayor’s Office again how it has assisted and if they will step in to help.

A spokesperson told us by email they’re routinely engaging with the district to offer technical assistance, but teachers say it’s not enough.

“I think that they need to relocate the campers and I don't think it's appropriate to start the school year with them there,” said Nicas. “There are disruptive things that happen there. We have had a shelter-in-place and we have had incidents that happened in the spring that we don't want to see again in the fall.”

Nicas called on Seattle Public Schools to makes students the top priority.

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Seattle Public Schools released the statement below after our TV deadline on behalf of Assistant Superintendent Rob Gannon:

“The partnership between Seattle Public Schools and Anything Helps continues and will continue beyond the start of the school year. Because of the complexity of the operation, we are shifting our anticipated date of camp removal to sometime after the school year begins. As we have previously shared with the community near Bitter Lake, and will do again tomorrow during a community meeting, modifications have been made to fencing, gating and security operations. The camp is unauthorized and unsanctioned, and we are firm in our commitment to completely remove the encampment. But it is important to note that the pace of this removal operation is directly tied to the time it takes to fully providing service and support to those experiencing homelessness. Mike Mathias of Anything Helps has done extraordinary work in assisting campers with organizing and preparing for a future that allows them to leave the cycle of homelessness, and we are grateful for his commitment to continue doing so until our goal is reached.”
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