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Homeless camp near North Seattle K-8 school to be cleared by mid-December

The camp grew over the summer and became a point of controversy after students returned to full-time in-person learning this fall.

SEATTLE — A controversial homeless camp next to Broadview-Thomson K-8 school in Seattle's Bitter Lake neighborhood is expected to be removed by mid-December, school officials said.

On Tuesday, Seattle Public Schools (SPS) sent a letter to parents and staff saying in part, “We recognize the ongoing concerns in our community about the encampment of people experiencing homelessness on Seattle Public Schools property and in Bitter Lake Park, and we thank you for your patience and compassion. We are on a path to move individuals into safer places and then close the encampment by mid-December.”

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SPS said with help from the city, King County and an outreach nonprofit called Anything Helps, it has already begun moving encampment residents into shelter or housing. An expected increase in housing and shelter options this month gives SPS further reason to be optimistic about the camp’s removal.

“The City, its partners, and Anything Helps are committed to finding safe 24/7 shelter options and support that we hope will allow them to leave the cycle of homelessness,” SPS said in the letter.

The camp, which Bitter Lake residents called a failure on the school district’s part, grew next to the school over the summer before students returned to in-person learning.

As the summer progressed and the first day of school approached, months of back-and-forth between the school district and the city could not produce any resolution to move the camp residents living on SPS property.

Parents, teachers and neighbors begged both the city and school district to do something. The camp even became a stop on the campaign trail of local politicians like mayoral candidate Bruce Harrell. He used the camp as an example of what he called “the crisis of the day.”

At one point in June, the camp was estimated at nearly 40 tents and even more campers, but SPS stood firm against forcibly removing them, eventually partnering with Anything Helps to begin providing outreach.

SPS said that an outreach team with the nonprofit has been to the camp every day since July.

Housing and services geared specifically toward helping the homeless are expected to significantly increase in Seattle over the next two years.

With help from King County’s Health Through Housing program and extra money from COVID-19 relief funds, the city is planning to increase the number of housing units for the homeless by nearly 50% by the end of 2023.

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