At our April 25th Open House, I communicated to our membership that HPAC had received a reply from Department of Human Services (HSD) director Catherine Lester (I have attached the letter in a link below for your reference). Although Director Lester replied to each of our concerns in turn, HPAC does not feel her responses sufficiently addressed the issues which we have brought to the attention of the Human Services Department as early as 2016. Namely, HPAC seeks resolution on the following three items:
1) The city’s adoption of our Neighborhood Protocols for Sanctioned Encampments
2) An accelerated timeline and concrete plans on the relinquishment of the Myers Way Parcels to the Seattle Parks and Recreation Department
3) A comprehensive plan that addresses jurisdictional issues related to providing services in the presence of homeless encampments, whether sanctioned or unsanctioned, at the interface of city, county and state lands (It should be noted that Director Lester affirmed that this issue was beyond her department’s purview, and HPAC will follow up with the appropriate contact to address this issue)
As such, a follow-up message was sent to HSD on April 25, 2018 by HPAC Vice-Chair Gunner Scott seeking accountability for the ways in which the City of Seattle addresses (or does not address, as the case may be) issues arising from the homelessness crisis. This follow-up was prompted by a concerned neighbor in Riverview expressing dismay at the continued presence and lack of enforcement of occupied, non-resident vehicles accumulating in our neighborhoods.
HPAC’s position remains that Highland Park has disproportionately borne the responsibility of accommodating the city’s responses to homelessness, hosting 3 encampments and absorbing the increase in incidental crime over the preceding decade. It cannot be stressed enough that Highland Park continues to suffer from a historical lack of public investment, and our neighborhood has seen no commensurate redress while we have hosted these encampments. We therefore believe that the most equitable response from the city would be to decline the renewal of the present encampment at the Myers Way parcels, and to enact a 10-year moratorium on any future encampments in our neighborhood.
Catherine Lester’s final day with the city is May 1, and present deputy director Jason Johnson will assume the position of interim director at HSD upon her departure. As chair, I believe it is in HPAC’s interest to momentarily table this issue during the staff transition at HSD and while we await a final decision on the permit renewal for Camp Second Chance. This time will allow HPAC’s executive committee to thoroughly explore all options and opportunities available to us to bring resolution to the issues outlined above.
Chair, Highland Park Action Committee