Council split on sweeping ‘unsafe' homeless camp

The Seattle City Council debates whether to stand in the way of a planned sweep of the homeless encampment known as "The Field."

SEATTLE – Is it a Field of Dreams, or Field of Filth?

Seattle City Councilmember Sally Bagshaw believes it's the latter. Fresh off a tour of the homeless encampment “The Field,” near Royal Brougham and Airport Way, the councilmember said it's time for it to be cleared.

"There are so many rats there, it's like the ground is moving," she said. "I do believe we should be finding alternative space for people."

The spot, on state right of way, was supposed to be a temporary encampment. It was the result of a compromise for people who lived underneath Interstate 5 in "The Jungle" until October 2016.  But Bagshaw acknowledges the experiment did not work. 

"This is not a place for human habitation," Bagshaw said.

She says she saw human waste, rats, and garbage strewn throughout the muddy site during her visit on Friday. The visit came after a high profile arrest of a resident, accused of sex trafficking and rape. 

Bagshaw has been a vocal proponent for the homeless and homeless services and says the city has done an adequate job warning residents of the coming eviction. She argues people were warned as far back as February 24 about the move and were given a formal warning on March 2. 

The Union Gospel Mission has been assisting in relocating campers.

The SODO Business Improvement Area applauds the sweep, calling “The Field” unsafe and unhealthy for the camp’s residents, as well as people who work nearby.

“Biohazards, rats, mounds of garbage and criminal activity are victimizing the inhabitants and the entire SODO district,” Erin Goodman, executive director of the SODO BIA, said in a statement. “Due to these unsafe and deplorable conditions, offering alternatives to the remaining inhabitants and closing the encampment is the only compassionate and reasonable course of action.”

Yet, not everyone agrees on the city's efforts. Councilmember Kshama Sawant presented a formal letter on Monday, asking for a one-week delay in the eviction. Councilmembers Rob Johnson, Debora Juarez, and Mike O'Brien said they would sign Sawant's letter.

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray's office and the city's Human Services Department both signaled the plan for clearing the site was still on.

"It's not the same as saying we're going to throw you out, throw you out to the woods, to the wild,” Bagshaw said. “We're offering space to people, and at a certain point, we should expect they take it.”

Copyright 2017 KING


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