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3 residents still in homeless camp near north Seattle school before removal

The city is working to completely remove the camp Thursday morning, slightly ahead of its original deadline of mid-December.

SEATTLE — The city of Seattle worked to clear a controversial homeless encampment next to Broadview-Thomson K-8 in the city’s Bitter Lake neighborhood on Thursday morning.

According to the city's Human Services Department, all but three of the individuals living in the encampment, which at one point had dozens of residents, were referred to either shelter or temporary housing as of Thursday morning. 

The camp, which took root while schools were still fully remote, has caused varying degrees of tension among the city, Seattle Public Schools (SPS), residents and advocates hoping to end notorious camp sweeps.

In early November, SPS said the camp would be removed by mid-December after it partnered with the nonprofit Anything Helps.

During the first week of December, Broadview-Thomson Principal Tipton Blish wrote to parents, saying in part, “With active support from the City of Seattle, the people who have been living at the camp now have an opportunity to move out of the elements and onto a path to break the cycle of homelessness. Seattle Public Schools and Seattle’s Parks and Recreation division expect to secure and restore the Bitter Lake site by mid-December.”

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On Tuesday, the city posted notices near the encampment, letting the six remaining homeless residents at the time know they’d have to either accept a referral for shelter or temporary housing or relocate to another area.

According to the latest outreach numbers from the Housing Services Department’s HOPE Team, people living at the camp have received referrals for housing since Sept. 15.

Over the last week, the city said 12 homeless residents had been referred to the newly opened Friendship Heights Tiny House Village, which opened this month just south of Bitter Lake.

The city expects that all six of the remaining camp residents, who have all been residing at the camp long-term, will be referred to shelter soon.

Thursday’s camp cleanup wasn't the first for the city this week.

After about seven weeks of outreach and engagement efforts, the city removed the encampment at Ballard Commons, where dozens of homeless residents had been living.

Since Oct. 12, the city said at least 70 referrals had been made to shelter or housing for individuals at the camp.

By the end of Tuesday, all but eight of the camp’s residents had accepted referrals to shelter and decided to relocate on their own to other areas.

Ballard Commons Park is expected to be closed for months while parks crews work to rehabilitate the grounds.

Since the beginning of the year, the city’s HOPE team has made more than 1,000 referrals to shelter with its partners from 105 encampments across Seattle, officials said.

By the end of the year, Seattle anticipates having a total of 2,837 shelter spaces, which is a 530-unit increase from the end of 2019.

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