Seattle homeless concerns brings renewed effort by grassroots group

KING 5's Amy Moreno reports.

It was an issue that stirred strong emotions when the idea was introduced last year. Seattle city leaders considered turning a blind eye to homeless camps in public spaces like parks.

The topic caused so much public outcry the council didn't even take a vote. A year later, a grassroots campaign has started again by the group known as Speak Out Seattle. 

“This is a big issue for a lot of people, and we think people deserve more than told it's OK to live in a tent," Elisabeth James said.  James and other members of Speak Out Seattle sent an email to supporters Saturday night.

They believe a proviso for the budget drafted by Councilmember Kshama Sawant would mean an end to the sweeps. They obtained the wording from Councilmember Mike O'Brien's office and put it on their website.

It says that it would restrict sweeps of unsanctioned homeless encampments unless they were on school property and active right of ways including sidewalks, activated spaces of parks, or private property.

“I don't understand their strategy at all," John Wisdom said. Wisdom said he got involved after seeing an increase in the number of people camping in Green Lake park near his home.

The group is concerned about talk that funding for counselors who help get those in encampments into housing will be cut.

“We think it would be sending a really dangerous precedent to say come, and you can camp here, and we aren't going to move you no matter what,” James said.

The group says they wouldn’t support clearing out homeless camps if other options weren’t being offered to those who are living in tents and RVs. Wisdom says he doesn’t agree with loosening restrictions

“It's basically setting up the situation where there's going to be more encampments, more people living under bridges," Wisdom said. "I don't understand how that makes anything better."

They have an online petition and they're asking people to flood the council with public comments again.  They're also planning a huge show of support at a budget hearing on November 1.

© 2017 KING-TV


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