From Charlie Omana, Chair, Highland Park Action Committee:
On April 3 HPAC sent a letter to Seattle’s Human Services Department to follow-up on previous letters submitted in March of this year and December of 2016 for which we have yet to receive a response.
As you may be aware, Catherine Lester, Director of the Human Services Department, has tendered her resignation and her final day will be May 1, 2018. As such, I made sure to also address this letter to Jason Johnson, the current Deputy Director who has been appointed by the mayor to oversee the department in the interim upon Ms. Lester’s departure.
Given the length of time that has elapsed since HPAC’s original letter in 2016, I felt it pertinent to request a response from the city no later than Friday, April 27, 2018 addressing the concerns of Highland Park residents and surrounding communities concerning the Myers Way Parcels’ conversion to parks and the overarching issues related to having encampments in our communities.
I must inform you that at the most recent Camp Second Chance Community Advisory meeting, there was discussion about allowing the camp to remain in place longer than the 2 years allowed by city ordinance. Presently, sanctioned encampments can only stay at a site for 12 months, with an option to renew for a 12-month extension. Any changes to this ordinance must be made by the city council. Should the council decide to take up such an amendment, it may prolong the length of time for which Seattle residents and our neighbors in unincorporated King County can expect to see usable park space at Myers Way.
As the city mulls permitting Camp Second Chance for another 12 months at the Myers Way site, it is only appropriate that the city assume responsibility to the community by addressing our 3 requests (found in the letter text below) in turn:
April 3, 2018
Catherine Lester, Director
Jason Johnson, Deputy Director
Department of Human Services
City of Seattle
Seattle Municipal Tower – 58th fl.
700 Fifth Avenue
Seattle, WA 98124-421
Director Lester and Deputy Director Johnson:
I am following up on a letter that was sent to the Human Services Department on March 8, 2018 concerning the Myers Way Parcels, specifically, and sanctioned homeless encampments, generally. That letter, in turn, was a follow-up to letter sent on December 13, 2016 to George Scarola, Director of Homelessness under the administration of former mayor Edward B. Murray.
As you are aware, Camp Second Chance became established on the Myers Way Parcels in July 2016, meaning that the encampment has already been present at this site (in both unsanctioned and sanctioned capacities) for one year and nine months. Our most recent letter to you requested that Camp Second Chance not be permitted for an additional 12 months on Myers Way, and that a new site be procured for this camp outside of the boundaries of the Highland Park neighborhood.
In addition to not renewing Camp Second Chance’s permit on Myers Way, our letter requested the following three things:
1) Adoption of a set of best practices (manifested as our Neighborhood Protocols for Sanctioned Encampments which are enclosed below) by which the City of Seattle will abide prior to sanctioning an encampment in a given neighborhood.
2) An accelerated timeline and plan on when and how the Finance and Administrative Services Department will relinquish the Myers Way Parcels to the Department of Parks and Recreation.
3) A plan on how jurisdictional issues that arise from the presence of sanctioned and unsanctioned encampments at the interface of city, unincorporated county, and state land will be resolved.
Allow me to reiterate that per the 2010 United States Census, Highland Park has a lower median income ($47,600) and a higher proportion of residents who identify as a person of color (50.2%) compared to Seattle as a whole ($74,458 and 33.7%, respectively). Our historically working-class neighborhood has suffered from a lack of investment going back at least a century and from being redlined in the 1930s. Yet we have overwhelmingly borne the burden of the city’s response to homelessness by hosting three encampments over the last ten years and serving as a staging area for a proposed safe lot for those residing in vehicles.
The residents of Highland Park and surrounding communities rallied to preserve the Myers Way Parcels as recreational space for the enjoyment of all citizens. Despite our limited resources, we have risen to the challenges brought by the homelessness crisis and have gone beyond what most other neighborhoods in Seattle have been asked to do. The neighborhood of Highland Park now implores the City of Seattle to demonstrate its commitment to equity by responding to our requests as outlined above.
To that end, we respectfully ask to receive a response to our requests by Friday, April 27, 2018 at 5:00 p.m. Pacific Daylight Time.
Chair, Highland Park Action Committee
CC: Mayor Jenny A. Durkan
Council Member Lisa Herbold, Chair: Civil Rights, Utilities, Economic Development and Arts
Council Member Kshama Sawant, Chair: Human Services, Equitable Development, and Renter Rights
Suggested Neighborhood Protocols for Sanctioned Encampments
For the Neighborhood
A. Provide information what other sites were investigated and the reasons why that site was chosen.
i. For the Myers Way site – why no other site in West Seattle were viable.
B. Provide information on how the race and social justice tool was used in deciding upon the proposed site.
C. Identify and work with the neighborhood groups/committees to put together community info sessions including locations, dates, and outreach methods to present the plan for the neighborhoods and the encampment.
D. Develop outreach materials that are multilingual and provide language and sign interpreters at community meetings.
E. Utilize trained facilitators to run community meetings and have present the Dept. of Neighborhoods, Dept. of Health, Director of Homelessness, SPD, the non-profit charged with outreach and support of the encampment, and any other relevant Departments and decision makers that can answer questions and make decisions. Take our feedback and incorporate any additional needs/resources.
F. Publish final plan prior to encampment being permitted.
A. Provide a written agreement between Neighborhood Group(s) and the City on how long the site will remain, the size of the encampment, how the encampment will be constructed, and how it will be deconstructed.
i. For the Myers Way site – we are requesting the one year permit for the sanctioned encampment to be retroactive to when the camp was established in July 1, 2016. Therefore, a one year permit until July 1, 2017.
ii. That Highland Park, Myers Way or any other sites in the surrounding South Delridge/Westwood/Roxbury Hill/ Arbor Heights/White Center/North Highline area will not be chosen again for 10 years.
iii. The Myers Way encampment will not grow beyond 35 tents and up to 50 people and will continue as a clean and sober camp.
iv. Why is it tents and not tiny homes?
B. Provide a plan and outline the increase of police, fire, EMS, and other services.
i. Specific to Myers Way – outline of how situations will be handled that cross city lines between Seattle Police and King County Sheriff’s office.
C. Assign a consistent contact person within the City to be a single point of contact for neighbors and businesses for specific issues related to the encampment, as well as the unsanctioned encampments/RVs in the area, outside of any emergency situations.
i. This contact person should coordinate any needs between other departments – such as SPU, SDOT, etc…
D. Implement programs to help reduce homelessness and crime such as Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) and REACH
i. In Highland Park and South Delridge within the next 3-6 months.
E. Provide a timeline and plan for addressing existing unsanctioned encampments and RVs in the area and how any future unsanctioned encampments that may develop as a result of the sanctioned encampment being in the area will be handled.
F. Provide a timeline and plan for addressing existing abandoned homes/squatters in the area.
G. Evaluate and increase of lighting in the area – especially near any bus stops, residential and business properties and have regular trash/dumping pick up.
i. Provide regular trash/dumping pick up at least 2x per week for any problem areas that surround an encampment on Myers Way
H. Plan and execute regular public education sessions on issues of homelessness and substance abuse with the appropriate non-profits for the community at large.
I. Provide updates and feedback sessions via community meetings at least every three months in addition to the community advisory council.
J. Provide each of the local community groups the opportunity to each have a seat on the community advisory council.