Trash piles up as Seattle rethinks homeless camp response

Trash is piling up in a Seattle neighborhood, as the city tries to figure out how to deal with a nearby homeless camp.

Trash piles are growing in a Seattle neighborhood as the city rethinks how it deals with a nearby homeless camp, and many others.

For roughly the past year, the team at Seavest Realty organized efforts to pick up garbage along Rainier Ave. S. near I-90. Workers and volunteers stuffed furniture scraps, discarded clothing, boxes, and other debris in bags and piled them along the curb for the city to collect. They also collected syringes and put them in sharps containers for safe disposal.

“We saw that not much was getting done about it, so we wanted to really step up as a community to do it,” said Joseph Bealefeld, a Seavest maintenance worker who helped organize the efforts surrounding a triangle of WSDOT land where several people are living in tents.

A loose partnership between Seavest, neighborhood volunteers, and city garbage crews managed to keep the community relatively clean.

But that partnership appears to be on pause.

“This is the first time we've ran into this situation,” said Bealefeld.

Several bags Seavest helped fill last weekend are not getting picked up. And a planned clearing of the property by WSDOT has been suspended at the city’s request.

The city is trying to improve coordination with various departments and implement a monitoring function for the Seattle Office for Civil Rights, as it crafts a strategy for dealing with homeless encampments.

"Extensive outreach is to be conducted before a cleanup, including in the preceding 72 hours. An outreach worker must be on-site when the cleanup begins. A civil rights office representative must also be at each cleanup to ensure outreach had been completed and that encampment residents are receiving safe storage of their belongings. Under the Mayor’s Aug. 19 directive, if these conditions are not met, no cleanup is to occur. The City has postponed cleanups to allow the various departments involved to coordinate under these guidelines," said Cyndi Wilder, Deputy Communications Director for the City of Seattle Department of Finance and Administrative Services.

In addition, a new encampments cleanup task force, formed by Mayor Ed Murray, brings together non-profits, neighborhood groups, and government agencies, and has until the end of the month to develop a list of policies and procedures to help the city figure out what to do with campers, their belongings, and their trash.

Meanwhile, an ugly problem along Rainier Ave. is only getting worse. Garbage is strewn along Rainier Ave. and no one has immediate plans to pick it up.

“I don't know where we're supposed to move it to, in front of your house, or mine, or city council members, or city hall?” pondered John Doerschuk, a senior property manager with Seavest.

Copyright 2016 KING


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