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Seattle releases plan to ‘rewrite’ homeless camp sweep policies

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SEATTLE — City leaders recently unveiled new plans for dealing with unauthorized homeless camp sweeps.

Last week, the American Civil Liberties Union slapped a lawsuit against the city, claiming cleanup crews illegally seized and destroyed property during sweeps.

The city released a 93-page proposal outlining plans to do a better job in notifying homeless people when the sweeps are happening.

The proposal also details what the city plans to do with property left behind instead of throwing everything away.

“Well, say you’re at home and all the sudden you get an eviction notice that says you got to leave now,” said Chris Hadley, who is living underneath the West Seattle Bridge.  “What would you do?”

Hadley said he has been through several homeless camps sweeps in Seattle. Each time he said he lost priceless connections to his past.

“Photo albums with my family from Tennessee, North Carolina, they’re gone,” he said. “I’ll never see them again.”

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray’s ‘Bridging the Gap to Pathways Home’ plan aims to rewrite the rules for dealing with unauthorized homeless camps.

The new plans would require the city to post warnings, offering advanced notice for the un-housed. The plan also would require the city to offer alternate locations for housing or shelter before a sweep happens.

It’s a plan Hadley said would make life a little easier.

“Last time my camp was swept, everything was thrown away. My shoes, clothes, everything was thrown away. My tent, everything was gone,” he said.

The city’s plans would also offer storage, recovery and delivery of personal property collected during a sweep. All of this would be free for the property owner – and the plan requires the city hold on to the property for 60 days.

“The sweeps don’t solve any problems,” said stopthesweeps.org organizer Simon Stephens.

Homeless outreach advocates like Stephens said sweeps are ineffective and only shuffle a marginalized community.

“You know when they swept out The Jungle, sure there’s not as many people in The Jungle anymore,” he said. “There is not as much trash accumulating there, but those people dispersed all across Seattle.”

“Unfortunately, I’d rather my tax dollars go to education and fixing potholes,” said Beacon Hill resident Jay Handley.

Handley said he has been in Seattle for more than two decades and he is tired of seeing homeless camps pop up all over town. He worries the camps play a role in to burglaries and thefts in his neighborhood. He also shared frustration, saying the city hasn’t done enough since Murray declared homelessness a crisis back in 2015.

“How many proposals must there be, to be able to find adequate opportunities for them to be in a place that’s safe dry and warm and at the same time doesn’t compromise their city?” said Handley.

The documents detailing the city's plan can be found here.

The city has asked people for feedback from the public about the new homeless camp sweep plans.

Residents can share their comments to these places:

City of Seattle
Department of Finance and Administrative Services
Attention: Frances Samaniego
P.O. Box 94689
Seattle, WA 98124-4689