SEATTLE – A group sued the City of Seattle and the Washington State Department of Transportation for its sweeps of homeless camps, which the plaintiffs claim are “unnecessarily cruel.”
Lisa Hooper and Brandie Osborne, two homeless women in Seattle, the Episcopal Diocese of Olympia, and Real Change, which offers immediate employment to the homeless, are suing the city and state.
At least 2,000 people live outdoors in Seattle on a given night, according to the City of Seattle.
The group claims Seattle and WSDOT conduct the encampment sweeps without adequate notice and in the process destroy personal possessions that are “critical” to the survival of someone living outside.
Hooper, who lives on a hill near Rainier Avenue South in Seattle has experienced multiple sweeps, according to the suit. During one sweep in May 2015, Hooper claims she was given minimal notice. In the process, Hooper claims she was forced to leave behind family photographs, legal paperwork, her children’s baby teeth, and antibiotics. Osborne has had similar experience with the sweeps.
The Episcopal Diocese of Olympia includes more than 100 worshipping communities in western Washington, including several Seattle churches that offer services, such as counseling and shelter beds, to the homeless. Those churches claim the increased sweeps caused an influx of people using their services, and an additional burden on church facilities and resources.
WSDOT said in a statement it was still reviewing the lawsuit, but safety was its top priority.
"Those camping on WSDOT property are putting both themselves and others at risk," WSDOT spokesman Justin Fujioka said in a statement. "In addition, many of these areas are typically inaccessible to service providers."