On Wednesday, September 5, the Wallingford Community Council hosted the City of Seattle’s Homeless Navigation Team for a discussion on the homeless issue, unsanctioned camping, illegal camping, potential solutions to the homeless problem and a question and answer session.
We learned that the Navigation Team consists of only four field coordinators, eight police officers trained to perform outreach, eight contractor outreach workers, one outreach coordinator who is a mental health expert and one manager who oversees the entire team. The team reported that so far this year they have made over 7,000 contacts with only 675 persons put into shelters.
I was personally shocked to learn that the entire city has only a total of 16 people working on the critical homeless issues in the city. The officers themselves feel that they need more people and resources and encouraged all in attendance to contact their councilperson and Mayor to ask them to appropriate more funds and resources to help solve the critical homeless issue that we are facing today. The timing is perfect to contact these city officials since the city is entering into its annual budget process. Here is the the contact information for Councilpersons Johnson and O’Brien as well as Mayor Durkan:
- Mayor Jenny Durkan – 206-884-4000 – [email protected]
- Councilperson Rob Johnson – 206-684-8808 – [email protected]
- Councilperson Mike O’Brien – 206-8800 – [email protected]
The Navigation Team reported that so far this year, 35% of those campers approached by the team have opted for shelters, but 35% of those contacted have opted not to accept any services offered. The team also reported that 65% of those contacted accepted some assistance including case management, mental health support and/or employment support.
Most of the questions from the attendees were focused on illegal or unsanctioned camping as well as vehicle camping in public spaces like streets and parks. Questions and statements were focused on drug use, dirty needles, sanitary issues and other illegal activities. There was an extensive discussion regarding the growing volume of vehicle camping in Woodland Park.
Once again, the Navigation Team members urged the audience to write and call their city elected officials to ask for more resources to support their efforts. Everyone in the audience felt as though the Navigation Team is doing a wonderful job and appreciated their hard work and dedication but all felt that they were underfunded and understaffed. The team told the audience to utilize the Find It-Fix It app (a mobile phone app for reporting issues from graffiti to potholes to needles) to report illegal camping and crimes associated with these camps and to call 911 if they see any criminal activity associated with them as well.
At the end of the evening all of us had a better understanding of the mission and dedication of the Navigation Team, but many were not convinced that the city has developed the proper homelessness strategy. Many attendees felt that the city is not giving enough consideration to the tax paying citizens when dealing with the homeless problem. The dialogue was useful and everyone ended up having a greater understanding of the homelessness problem and an appreciation for the work that the Navigation Team is doing (as well as the fact that they need more resources.)
Editor Note: Comments provided by Navigation Team provided after initial posting are indented below. These comments were not available to the author at the time of posting:
My name is Will Lemke and I handle communication’s for the City’s Navigation Team. I was in attendance during last week’s Wallingford Community Council, representing the team (along with police officers and our outreach manager).
I want to flag 2 issues from the blog post recapping the event. First-the team is made up of 22 individuals, not 16. Mayor Durkan has dedicated funding to expand the team to 30 people. Both of these points were covered in the meeting by myself personally and not reflected in the piece. Secondly, the team did not appeal to community members directly for more funding, which is the characterization within the post. When questions from community members came in that were political in nature (i.e. asking about what the team needs/funding questions) I personally directed community members to refer such questions and comments to their elected officials, highlighting the upcoming budget discussion as a good time to do so. Contacting elected officials is the appropriate course to take when providing comment on the future of the team and funding questions.
Appreciate your attention to this
Whenever citizens contact the Navigation team and urge them to clean up disgusting and dangerous illegal camps near them, they are told that there are over 400 unsanctioned and only one Nav team. That’s the excuse for telling people they should put up with people trespassing, breaking into their cars, defecating on their property, open drug use and leaving dirty needles everywhere. I wonder how fast these camps would get cleaned up if they were were right by where our City Council members live? It seems to me that maybe, just maybe, we should fund more navigation teams so citizens don’t have to put up with vagrants menacing them for month after month?
And don’t get me started on how we should just call “call 911 if they see any criminal activity associated with them as well.”
I understand the feeling. I get tired of the same old nonresponse.( Post to be deleted or adjusted if responded by insults or harrassing comments. I am done with that.)
The at-large city council members are also “our” council members.
Thanks “fruit bat”
You can dial 911 and Mike O’Brien till your fingers bleed but until our elected officials (Council and City Attorney) have a different definition of compassion, it’s a fool’s game. Suck it up!
What’s the definition of “tax paying citizen”? Is that a tier of citizenship that’s higher than others? Don’t we all pay sales tax anyway? The idea that there are tiers of people by tax payment is a poisonous one that’ll undermine the system. The US system gives more power to the money than most other democratic countries already.
If I may, I’d suggest the author was referring to those of us who are net taxpayers, rather than net tax suckers. The tent campers are in the latter category, annually costing us many tens of thousands of dollar$ each.
How do you define net taxpayers? I don’t think people can even agree how to measure that.
For example, somebody who park their car in the street for free obviously are using public resources and are “net tax suckers” within the content of parking. However, what’s the exact value we should have charged them for?
We do all use roads, but some more than others. How do we calculate how much of the tax money spent on roads should be attribute to the “account” of individuals?
The fact that we live as collectives and utilize public resource as collectives means there are no means developed to do full accounting on these. Most of the argument trying to give “tax paying citizens” more power are typically using shoddy accounting. When Romney talked about this topic to his donors, we all know he was intentionally talking it in a way that will appease his donors and not really trying to describe reality.
Majority of our tax money goes into systems that keep maintain our current way of life. The richer you are, the more important it is for the system to be maintained. The homeless got way less to lose than homeowners if suddenly cops are all gone. So we surely shouldn’t allocate the fee associated with cops evenly among homeless and other folks for example.
I would guess the true “net tax suckers” are actually rural people. They got tons of government assistance to even get basic utilities and roads. Homeless may not pay into the system much, but they also take very little from the system relatively.
I would support the idea of removing many of the rural assistance programs and move more people into cities so we can have more wilds.
TJ, define it however you want, car parking and all. You cannot deny that those living in unsanctioned camps are a disproportional and enormous drain on our resources.
Do you understand what the author of the thread means when he says, “Many attendees felt that the city is not giving enough consideration to the tax paying citizens when dealing with the homeless problem(?)” If you don’t, let me help you out with an example by repeating the story I told at the meeting:
A couple of weeks ago at Lower Woodland, a vagrant whose been RV camping there assaulted a FIVE YEAR OLD boy during a soccer game. Multiple calls were made to 911, and the creep didn’t even leave the scene for awhile. Now, if you think us “privileged,” single family housed, car driving, taxpaying NIMBY’s are indeed being given enough consideration, consider the fact that no cops were sent. The guy was still hanging around and the cops could have arrested him. But, as the lady from the Nav team told me later, because the victim’s family finally gave up waiting and left the scene, they didn’t actually have a “victim,” and so there was nothing they could do. (I recently had my own experience with that, so this is not the first time I’ve heard this.) That, and as she said, they are severely understaffed so they can only respond to higher priority calls.
So this guy continues to live there with no consequences, and more and more people are scared to use the parks that belong to ALL of us. So yeah, we’re kinda feeling like our needs aren’t being considered. I wonder whose kid he’ll assault next time?
If you are talking about cleaning up scary neighborhoods as a priority, I am pretty sure you’ll agree there are a lot of places scarier than Lower Woodland Park that probably needs to be cleaned up first. There are many streets in Seattle you’d feel less safe walking on comparing to Lower Woodland for sure, and I guess the fact people live in those areas get used to the situation means they are OK? Just that people here in Wallingford used to have it better therefore deserve to always have it better?
Yeah, you’re right TJ, we have it better up here, so we should stop gripping about our kids getting assaulted.
EVERYONE deserves to have it better, regardless of where they live.
these are simple laws to enforce…to give someone a pass for trespassing, being a thief, public intoxication, etc because they are homeless is just ridiculous.
also, anyone that would want this in their back yard is plain nuts.
Vast majority of the law violations are not enforced due to limitation on law enforcement resources. The issue is about resource allocation. The norm in the US is that rich and safe areas get much more resources while needing less.
And nobody wants bad things in their backyard is exactly my point. I think it’s more effective to put the resource in worse areas so overall we have fewer of these incidents.
Anyone who remembers this differently, please correct me, but a couple of points from Jackie (sp), the social services coordinator on the team, that seemed to add up to something pertinent:
1. Most unsanctioned campers are opiate drug users. (Elsewhere I’ve heard uncontested estimates of over 80%.)
2. He put the success rate with addicts at “less than 1%.” I’m sorry, don’t remember exactly what level of success that referred to.
3. No one was ever helped by jail.
So I have the impression that while there’s lots of good work being done, the effect on the most dangerous and unwholesome side of this will be minimal. The needles, etc. – we have no means to deal with it.
(I should add, they expressed a commitment to do something about encampments that they hear about, that are near a school, so that’s something.)
If we have any requirements linked to assistance, it’d remain the fact that the worst cases will never be helped. There are always going to be people who don’t meet or can’t meet the requirements.
Many marginally homeless people just need a tiny bit of help and will move on quickly, but we can’t pretend that’s the case for all. For the worst cases, we have the following choices:
1. Commit to spend extraordinary amount of resource to fix the situation
2. Fix it in cheaper but less humane ways
3. Give up and consider it just the ugly side of society we will live with instead of spending more resource to fix
What we are really doing now is effective 3 but also spend some money to do some useless measures and pretend that we are trying.
The horrible homeless cases have been around for a long time. The University Way Jack in the Box and the surrounding blocks have had drug-using homeless dudes harassing people for a long time before any of the recent affordability crisis. One of my coworker’s classmate got stabbed there, and I’ve been harassed by homeless multiple times there in the past also, since there were a couple of since gone cheap eat places that I frequent back then.
So the needles in the park by Hamilton ? Is the 3 tent encampment on Stone & 42nd close enough to Hamilton? How abotu the woman with 4 shopping carts of newspapers right in front of Boys and Girls Club? is that close enough to children? ( This comment may be deleted if responded to by the person who was told to STOP insults & harrassment.)
this is just a bunch of lip service.
the city doesn’t have the stomach to deal with the homeless as needed. you must enforce all laws, homeless or not – that’d be a very simple first step.
there is not one good reason to justify, for example, the takeover of parts of woodland park by RV dwellers and the tent people. they are, for the most part, unstable drug addicts that offer nothing of value to the community – yet we are supposed to feel bad for them and accept that the city will not trespass them or enforce any other laws (drug dealing, drug possession, etc).
sorry, empathy meter is at zero at this point and have not a wink of sleep lost over the majority of the campers. the mentally ill or infirm? complete empathy and support. bike chopping drug zombies? nope, sorry….
There’s a practical element to this policy, though, as well, and we have to sort that out before we can really make it a purely moral question. Practically, what do you do with an epidemic of drug users? If it’s incarceration, you have to reckon with the statutory terms for specific offenses, and the actual terms; you have to add up the resources in the justice system (enforcement, courts, jails, etc.) vs. requirements. There really is no “lock them up and throw away the key” option, and as I understand it’s actually more like a very expensive revolving door. Similar situation with mental illness, there’s hardly any way to get involuntary commitment.
I’m no expert. Maybe the options are a lot better than I think. But it’s a major part of the ACLU etc. position: we’re wasting city resources chasing these people around. If someone could make a convincing case that we really could clean it up, then it would be a much weaker case.
ok. then i suppose the only answer is to enable these people to death – oops, not quite, we’ll enable them until their next rescue from an OD via endless tax money?
“In its majestic equality, the law forbids rich and poor alike to sleep under bridges, beg in the streets and steal loaves of bread.” — Anatole France, 1894
Does the law’s majestic equality allow us to let our kids play in our parks without fear of them being assaulted by a vagrant or stuck by one of their needles?
Ah, yes, the classic “Think of the children” defense. Right up there with “But my property values.”
How do you feel about safe injection sites, needle exchanges, and publicly-accessible sharps containers?
Damn right let’s “think of the children.” Maybe you should try that line on the parents whose 5 yo got assaulted at Lower Woodland two weeks ago. Not to mention, just this morning, my own daughter told me about how our neighbor and the grandmother of her best friend took them to Lower Woodland to go do some “dirt sledding” down a steep hill. She told me how fun it was, and also how she found a needle and saw some of your poor people who are “stealing loaves of bread” camping there. So now I have to tell my daughter that she can’t go up there any more. Or how about when I had to tell her last Friday when I was leading practice for her soccer team at Meridian Park to not go chase after the ball if it bounced by those folks camped in the corner. You think I like I having to check the field for needles?
Needle exchanges, riiiight. Try “needle distribution centers.” What’s the exchange ratio of Shilo’s defacto legalized shooting den there on the Ave? And “safe injection sites?” Ask the people living or working in the area around Vancouver’s Insite on E. Hastings how safe it is for them. And yet they still have skyrocketing OD’s and refer MAYBE 4% to treatment. That’s refer, not “complete” treatment. And Insite is what the SCC wants to model our injection sites after.
Lastly, how well do those needle drop bins work? They drop them on the ground a block or two away! What do they care, right? it’s not like they’re the ones who’ll suffer any consquences.
The assault could have happened regardless of the current homeless situation.
So basically, your response is that the only acceptable responses are incarceration or pushing the problem somewhere else. Because those are the only ‘solutions’ that I hear you offering.
That assault most certainly would NOT have happened if the city wasn’t allowing the creep to camp out there.
Of course. No one was ever assaulted by a random transient in a public park before 2018.
Solutions would be most welcome, if you have one. Bearing in mind, this is mainly not about the rich and the poor, it’s a local opiate epidemic with all the attendant problems.
It’s a housing problem. But our neighborhood doesn’t seem willing to address the issue.
I favor harm reduction approaches. Things like “housing-first” programs that prioritize shelter over sobriety. I also think we should use the best available data to try out pilot programs, since no one intervention will work for everyone.
Thank you for this article. I gave your thread info to someone who is highly impacted by a recent move of a homeless person who is camping in front of their agency which serves children, The staff did not know about the article and found more resources from this. We are all working together. ( This post will be changed or deleted if responded to by/with harrassment, X of X or insults.)
I feel like I was at a different meeting than Glenn, Phil, and Don…
And thankfully in person in the meeting, Phil wasn’t calling anyone “vagrants” or using other malicious words for our fellow humans.
Nor thankfully was anyone in the meeting heaping abuse on the Navigation team for doing work that we wealthy homeowners and “net taxpayers” are unwilling to fund more adequately so as to be more effective in housing people and assisting those who need mental health or substance abuse support.
It’s not that you were at a different meeting, exactly, just that it as usual took place for you in a different world. It’s good of you to stop by and try to seize the moral high ground, I’m sure Phil will henceforth try to use the phrase “our fellow humans” for the folks who leave needles laying around, but you’ll always be more saintly than him, and I think we can just take that for granted. But I’m interested to know how the meeting went in your world. Do you remember Jackie saying, the majority of the campers are opiate users, and their success rate with them was less than 1%? Do you remember the extensive discussion of dealing with needles – Glenn didn’t get into details like that, but apparently grade school principals are organizing needle cleanups, while the team made quite a point of warning people not to go near a needle because of the risk of disease, don’t pick up a pile of autumn leaves with your hands, etc.?
Something that might be easy to forget, there in your rarified world of pure compassion, is that ordinary folks can get frustrated and angry with these people, as if they were responsible for their actions that put us at risk like this. You and I know they aren’t, really, because we’re all just products of our environment – I mean, Stoic philosophers like Cleanthes had that figured out thousands of years ago, but unfortunately that stuff isn’t covered in modern education as much as it should be, and that may partly account for the rarity of saints like yourself. So you might be more understanding, is what I’m saying, of those who haven’t reached your ethical plateau.
Anyway … also would be interested to see if the “heaping abuse on the Navigation” team comments that you imply are here, in your world, could be found here in our world. Where specifically is that?
I, for one appreciate the Nav team, and told them so at the meeting. They’ve got an enormously difficult and thankless job. We need to fund lots more of them.
It’s not very hard to occupy high ground—moral, intellectual, epistemological, civic, or otherwise—in a WCC meeting.
Be that as it may, praising the Nav team on the one hand and then getting pissed at them for not doing enough on the other, makes for a bit of a whiplash.
I’m hopeful though that we can agree that we need both more housing and more resources to tackle these thorny problems.
Maybe you and the WCC can cease your objections to both?
Oh dear. Did I use a mean word for a man who assaulted a little kid?
No, Phil you used a dehumanizing term for a whole class of people thereby Othering them and making space for abusing them in ways we’ve seen society do in past eras.
But to expect better from you would be a persistent disappointment. So I don’t.
Paul, you were at the meeting, so I know you heard me use my one question to tell the story about the kid who got assaulted at Lower Woodland. BTW, I couldn’t help but notice that while both you and Jessica love to gripe that WCC silences your voices, you each had no compunction in asking two questions, which were granted. Meanwhile, others who hand up their hand up never got the chance at all. I guess when you’re a YIMBY that means you’re special.
Anyway, regarding the story I told: I make no apologies for calling a spade a spade. I refuse to use feel-good terms like “unhoused neighbors,” “people experiencing homelessness,” and “vulnerable community members” to describe criminals and creeps like the guy who assaulted the kid. You’re doing a disservice to the people who are desperately trying to work their way out of their situation when you label criminals as “homeless” and group them in with the others.
Furthermore, I refuse to go along with your terminology because you and other advocates for letting drug addicts and criminals take over our parks and sleep in their own filth in the name of “compassion” cynically do this to try to change the terms of the debate. What you and other enabler’s call compassion is nothing more than the soft bigotry of low expectations.
Or perhaps I’m wrong. Maybe you truly do not understand the difference. So let me ask you a pop quiz: On Monday a woman who’s already been dealing with unspeakable hardship in her life was attacked by two vagrants, or as you prefer to call them, “unhoused neighbors” over by Children’s. They grabbed her, beat her, and tried to rape her in broad daylight on the sidewalk.
So here’s the question, Paul. Which party is the “vulnerable community member” here?
Phil– I don’t think any of us are pro-assault. Nor are any of us for people living without homes or for people living under addiction.
But, by using the term “vagrant” and using incendiary anecdotes, you are hindering progress on a viable and humane solution.
Here an analogy to demonstrate the illogic of.your argument: most murders are white men; you are a white man; thus we’re justified in calling you murderous. Or another: many black men are incarcerated for crimes; you’re a black man; thus you’ve probably committed crimes.
You can see how poor these are. And by pulling an incident here, and another one there, that involve people without homethe and then using it to pronounce judgment on the whole lot of them, you’re making a gross fallacy.
I agree with you that we need a solution here. This is a crisis, an emergency.
We also know already what works:
1. A decriminalized public health approach such as what Portugal did.
2. More homes
These require that we not treat addiction and poverty as crimes. These require a lot more money. These require that we change our zoning laws.
Are you with me on advocating for these known, proven solutions?
so is it cool if i start selling heroin to these folks? seeing as addiction isn’t a crime and drug possession/use has been essentially been rendered unarrestable, why shouldn’t i benefit as well?
i’ll sell cheap as well, as not to be mean to those in poverty…
as always, of course you and folks similar want even more of my hard earned tax dollars to sprinkle over thieving junkie vagrants – because its all my fault.
get out of here with that weepy, pandering approach. thanks.
Swampy… I’d suggest reading some of the research on effective addiction treatment and recovery programs. (Hint: tossing people in jail ain’t one of them.)
More homes? How do you like that fire a couple days ago, that burned down 7 townhouses under construction near Aurora? The builder: “… there’d be guys sleeping in there, their drug paraphernalia was laying everywhere. We asked them to leave, they were sort of aggressive. My subcontractors refused to come in, there were needles everywhere … There was kind of a ringleader of this group, and he was very defiant, and the police pretty much just said `Look, we really can’t do anything about it.’ … fences around the building, it just didn’t matter, boarded up … They started showing up during the day, very defiant … We called the police again, they came out the day before, and they spoke to this guy. But they didn’t make him move, they didn’t make him leave. And that was the night before the place caught on fire.” You’re always (falsely) claiming WCC is against more housing, but at least, as far as I know, we don’t ever burn any down.
You’re the one who who’s conflating this with homelessness in general, and I wonder if it will ever sink in for you, how harmful that is for the people who are just homeless for basically economic reasons, to be constantly lumped in with the very visible problem we’re talking about here?
Unless you have specific different methods you want to apply to different category of people, what you call them and how you categorize them don’t really matter.
What exactly do you intend to do? If you think the solution is to categorize people based on certain criteria and treat them differently in order to reach specific goals, then just state the idea, names or no names.
What are your intended goals? I think the goal you want to achieve is that you don’t want to low risk in life, no unpleasant people in your neighborhood, while not paying an insane amount of money to achieve that? And I think you believe that’s how your life was and you don’t see why it cannot have stayed that way forever?
Do I get it right? You think you deserve to keep whatever you had or what you think you had? You think whatever social changes should be shouldered by somebody else?
TJ, I’m not asking anyone else to shoulder social changes. I am asking city leaders to do their job that we pay them and SPD to do and enforce our laws. And to kick the vagrants out of our parks so that we can use them too without fear of having our kids being assaulted or stuck by a needle.
Is that such an unreasonable request?
Phil… so you just want them gone, you’re concern isn’t really about helping improve their lives?
Or if it is to help them improve their lives (which would also work to get them into housing and not sleeping in parks), what methods would you recommend, and how would we pay for it?
My view is that we should use proven public health methods + housing, rather than the disproven punishment methods. And that we should have a tax system that pays for it.
Would you agree or disagree?
I reject the idea that punish methods are unproven. Singapore model works. The issue isn’t that punishment doesn’t work, just that we have to be willing to sacrifice some human rights. We are rejecting punishment methods because we are not willing to do what it takes.
Paul, you can’t help people who don’t want to be helped. Unless you want to force them all into treatment. I have a feeling your friends in the ACLU might object to that.
Here’s today’s example of the negative impacts of your hug-a-thug, kumbaya approach to dealing with the junkies and vagrants that plague our city. I know you don’t like to consider the victims whenever one of your “unhoused neighbors” commits a crime, but here’s a guy whose building the kind of housing you’re advocating for. And the city policies that you support are significantly driving up construction costs. Not to mention threatening other people’s property and yes, their lives.
It’s regarding that massive Wallingford fire from two days ago. It’s a ten minute interview with the contractor, and it starts at 19:25:
But I think the city leaders area already doing their jobs that we pay them for, which is to judge how to best utilize the limited resources we have collectively. We didn’t pay them to do every single thing on their to-do list, because we didn’t offer them enough resource to achieve that.
It’s like how Trump has to rob FEMA to fund ICE.
Your request isn’t unreasonable, but your expectation is.
There was a report on the news abotu 3 weeks ago that millions of dollars earmarked for the homeless problem had disappeared. How is this “doing their jobs”?
It is reasonable.
Snark aside, Phil, I’d recommend reading this article…
“It’s a significant element that the previous and the current administration both subscribe to, and that is to think of homeless people as fellow citizens first—not pariahs and not to be left in exclusion, but to find ways to bring people back into society and reduce the conflict that often exists… between homeless and non-homeless people,”
This has also been a central part of the most successful addiction campaign known to modern societies, Portugal’s decriminalization policy. What they found is that by treating addiction as a medical issue and a loneliness/despair and humanizing –not dehumanizing–people with an addiction issue they were able to successfully move people off drugs. Tough love and a punishment model don’t work.
huh. no wallyhood story on the vagrant junkies that burned up the construction site in Wallingford? not a big enough story? Doesn’t fit the weepy narrative?