With the mayor asking for more money to address the homeless problem, we are taking a look at the city's new approach to cleaning up the camps. How well are they working?
In March, the city conducted 40 homeless cleanup operations throughout Seattle.
They include extensive garbage and waste removal. A navigation team notifies the campers they need to leave. And then, city workers help pack up their property, and even offer storage for the owner to claim at a later date.
But some wonder what it achieves.
“When they sweep people they just end up going somewhere else,” said Kara Sweidell, a homeless rights advocate.
Or sometimes, they return to the very same place.
Just one day after a cleanup at 4th and Royal Brougham near the downtown stadiums, tents started to reappear.
“When we clean up a location we'll always be going back multiple times,” said Chris Potter, operations director with the Department of Finance and Administrative Services, which heads up the cleanup operations.
Potter says sometimes just removing the trash alone abates the public health hazard.
FAS could not say how much the cleanups were costing. A spokesperson said they were “using existing budgets to pay for the cleanups.”
The mayor claims 50 percent of the campers accept shelter services.
“It's not simply sweeping,” said Mayor Ed Murray. “It's giving services to people. Fifty percent is better. It's not perfect. And when people won't move, then we move them.”
“We look at each one of those cases where someone accepts services as a success,” said Potter.
But what about the other half who just move to another location?
With the city and the county asking taxpayers for more money to help end homelessness, some wonder if the cleanup practice is worth the cost.
“What is the end game here?” asked Sweidell.