Heated exchange as Seattle considers measure that critics say could expand homeless camps

SEATTLE — The Seattle City Council voted Tuesday to move forward with new legislation meant to deal with the homeless crisis in our region.

Critics warn that parts of the new proposal could allow unauthorized homeless camps to pop up all over town.

During a public comment period at Tuesday’s council meeting, emotions ran high and security removed several people seen being disruptive.

Council President Bruce Harrell tried to calm the surge of emotions but security was asked to step in and remove several people who spoke out of turn.

The outbursts happened as the council reviewed yet another series of proposals to tackle the homelessness issue that Mayor Ed Murray calls a crisis.

Instead of sweeping homeless out of campsites, new legislation would require in most cases the city provide a 30-day eviction warning for campers – but not before the city finds a new place for them to live.

“We need to sweep trash and not people,” said council member Kshama Sawant. “Enough talk. Let’s just do something to end homelessness and provide affordable housing to everybody.”

In homeless camps that are deemed to be unsafe or dangerous, the city would only need to give campers 48-hour’s notice.

Some council members think the legislation is too broad and could jeopardize public safety.

“This ordinance in my view tips that balance decidedly away from public health and safety responsibilities,” said council member Tim Burgess.

The goal of the legislation is to give homeless campers a chance to plan for a move – instead of dealing with a surprise ultimatum.

But some homeowners told Q13 News they worry the legislation would unfairly expand homeless camps into parks across the city, and too close to home.

“The last thing they would probably want is homeless encampments right across the street in a school yard because that’s not where it needs to be,” said Whitney Hartshorn.

The new legislation is still in the planning phase; the ordinance now heads to a special committee. Council hopes to refine the proposed ordinance in the next 30 days.