SEATTLE – You could say Seattle is a city of contrasts, one where the highs continue to grow, and the depths continue to get deeper.
It was visible on Thursday, as Seattle Mayor Ed Murray signed legislation to allow a University District upzone.
The mayor and councilmembers argue it's a way to allow for more affordable housing to be built, and in certain cases, allow people to stay out of homelessness.
"Every 10 percent increase in rents contributes to the likelihood of homelessness," Rob Johnson said.
But as the signing was underway, across town the city was preparing to sweep a controversial encampment. The city designated "The Field" at Royal Brougham and Airport Way a living space for people evicted from "The Jungle," under Interstate 5 last fall. But according to city officials, it has been overcome by rodents, trash, and feces. Last month, a resident was arrested and charged with rape, and child sex trafficking.
The city says it will be swept clean on Tuesday, March 7 at 9 a.m. There will be no replacement location.
That's drawn a mix of reviews from those who have aided and are trying to help people out of homelessness.
"We are offering each of them shelter,” Jeff Lilley of Union Gospel Mission said. “And meeting with them individually (as much as they are willing) to offer additional services ranging from legal services, health and dental, addiction recovery services, as well as connecting them with housing providers and case managers."
But other advocates say the city has failed in this particular case.
"We think that the city is doing a poor job of assisting the people who are currently living in this space,” wrote Alison Eisinger, director of the Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness. “And that the city itself created a difficult situation, directed people to set up temporary living arrangements there, failed to support or protect the people or manage the site well, and are now requiring people to move without sufficient alternatives or a good plan. It is very troubling indeed.”
Johnson, appearing at the upzone bill signing, said it's an argument for creating more homes for the homeless.
"To get people housed is a priority of mine. We've gotta get people inside, and I hear that from constituents all across the political spectrum," he said, adding, "We need to ramp up the locations quickly."