It’s happened. Long promised, routinely ignored, obfuscated and talked around—and tenaciously covered by KOMO—the dismantling and cleanup of the notorious Ship Canal encampment is well underway on the day that it commenced (Monday). KOMO, which must have a wholly-owned subsidiary dedicated to encampment reporting, had featured a story that said today would be the day. The State Department of Transportation (WSDOT), on whose property this camp has existed and persisted since sometime after the last Ice Age, had committed to removing the encampment by the end of the month in a letter to John Stanford International School (JSIS) parents. This afternoon, WSDOT had crews on-site piling up huge amounts of trash, debris and no doubt things we’d rather not think about, cleaning up the ground underneath, and erecting new fences and barriers to ostensibly prevent a re-occurrence. When I visited, Washington State Patrol was present to check status and progress.
At the beginning of the day, it appeared that a team of people from human resource agencies was assembled to assist the remaining residents, who were milling about in the morning camp smoke. It didn’t really appear that many tents had come down, which made me wonder how much progress was going to take place today. But it apparently happened very quickly.
As to the fate of the residents, we will have to wait to hear from officials of the King County Regional Homelessness Authority and other agencies. But facts and figures regarding the placement and longer-term stabilization of relocated encampers have been frustratingly hard to come by. It seems that this kind of information is absolutely essential for establishing performance metrics, i.e., are all the angst and effort, not to mention, money, making any difference in helping people and reducing the scope of the problem? These basic numbers would be helpful to know, as we consider the proposal on the table to spend another $12 billion on the regional solution.
In any event, kudos to the parents and neighbors of JSIS, who have doggedly pursued commitments and progress on the local encampment with every level of government in the State. They wrote letters, made phone calls, attended city council meetings, protested over I-5, and brought the Governor for a site visit. I’m a little surprised they couldn’t convince Dave Matthews to do a benefit concert on the school playground. Never underestimate the power and tenacity of a worked-up school PTSA (I would mention those Florida parents and Michelangelo’s David, but I wouldn’t want to diminish and besmirch the accomplishments of the JSIS parents).
Meanwhile…there’s the matter of the small, steep, greenbelt between the two forks of NE 40th extending under the Ship Canal Bridge. It’s where the crew of goats visits every summer to crop down the blackberries and other persistent undergrowth, and to briefly entertain us in the dog days of summer. The fences there have been compromised again, and the tents are back. Is there a goat lobby in the neighborhood?