Back on January 30, I wrote that persons who had been camped out on the Burke Gilman Trail between Gasworks Park and I-5 had, effectively, been served with an eviction notice. As some readers noted in the comments, the city followed through with that eviction. Just weeks later however, campers returned.
Nathan dropped us a line:
I was wondering if you can do a follow up to the Burke Gilman Trail homeless population since everything is “back to normal.” Between Stoneway and I-5 all of the tents have appeared back in the same locations. Yesterday morning I saw more of the same, including grocery carts, a dead rat, and trash beginning to accumulate.
I was certainly aware of their return since I bike this stretch of trail quite regularly. I might add that among the paraphernalia were a few bicycles and a barbecue. To facilitate access to the bike path from the tents, someone had cut a hole in the chain link fence as well.
Removal of such camps has often been fraught with difficulties especially with regards to campers’ possessions. It is not primarily the campers themselves that most citizens object to though, but rather the copious amounts of trash associated with these camps.
I was impressed with the camper nearest to Stone Way. I saw him shoveling out several walkways to his tent and a trash bin is onsite. I think I’m bothered more by the litter than the down on their luck campers. I’ve seen volunteers host litter pick ups in this area but they seem a waste of time.
While neighborhoods are not equally affected by the homeless population, the problem impacts most every resident of Seattle in one way or another. A January, 2016, survey of the homeless population pegs the number at 2942. A more recent city survey breaks down that population based upon place of origin (about 75% from King County, about 13% out-of-state), reason for being homeless, and other factors. A very detailed report on this survey appears at My Northwest, but was also reported on briefly in the Seattle Times.
Could help be on the way? The Mayor has proposed a $55 million per year property tax levy to address the problem. (Details on how this money would be spent are still TBD, I believe.) This is in addition to numerous city programs such as Pathways Home (which seeks to find transitional and permanent housing for the homeless), and approximately $50 million already in city coffers allocated to homeless issues.
In the meantime, what’s a citizen to do? Rather than sitting around waiting for the city to locate camps, contact the residents, and clean up after them, it is possible to initiate a request yourself. Requests can be made via an online service request form, by using the Find-It-Fix-It mobile app or by calling 206-684-2489.
You may find the response somewhat underwhelming. Nathan reported the newest BGT campers, and here is the response he received back:
I am replying to your inquiry about unauthorized encampments. You asked why “regular sweeping” isn’t done as “periodical sweeping” has not worked. The reality is the city has resource limits (staffing, equipment, funding) and hundreds of campsites city-wide, which is why Mayor Murray proclaimed a state of emergency regarding homelessness.
The city continues to strategize and try new approaches to improving and resolving this issue. The city has recently renewed its focus on trash removal so hope you will see an improvement in the near future. Thank you for contacting the Customer Service Bureau.
If we can be of further assistance in this matter, please [send an email to [email protected]] and send us a message. Please do not change the subject line.
City of Seattle
Customer Service Bureau