SEATTLE — While Seattle removed the Green Lake Park encampment Monday, officials say their work to help homeless individuals in the area is nowhere close to being finished.
That’s because the city thinks at least 100 more unsheltered individuals are living in areas of Woodland Park that were not included in Monday’s camp removal, which followed months of outreach.
Intensive outreach began at the Green Lake Park encampment, which included a small portion of Woodland Park, in September after the city designated it a “high priority site.”
When Seattle Human Services Department’s (HSD) HOPE Team has responded to the area since September, there were 31 individuals living in the removal area.
The majority of them accepted referrals to enhanced shelters with wraparound services by Monday when Seattle Public Utilities and Seattle Parks and Recreations crews moved in to remove anything left behind and begin remediating parts of the park.
However, most of Woodland Park was not designated a “high priority site” for removal, which means HSD has not begun coordinating formal outreach efforts.
The decision to designate camps high priority is made by an "interdepartmental team" that looks at a number of factors, HSD said. These factors include public safety concerns, needs of those in the camp, shelter availability and the availability of outreach providers and staff.
For the Green Lake encampment, HSD said the biggest factor driving outreach was the availability of shelter as it related to the needs of those living in the camp along with concerns over public safety.
HSD says outreach has and continues to be done throughout Woodland Park from partners like REACH, the Downtown Emergency Service Center and Scofflaw Mitigation Team, all of whom have said they go to the site.
Still, concerns over safety at the park have persisted in tandem with those at its neighboring Green Lake Park.
In October, resident Edward Balet told KING 5 he had called 911 several times due to gunshots at night, adding that picnic areas in Woodland Park were not available for reservations since they were turned into camps.
HSD Director of External Affairs Jenna Franklin wrote in an email, “In early 2022, we will likely start formalizing coordination, and we believe there are 100+ people residing in Upper Woodland, but we do not have an official count at this time.”
In recent weeks, Seattle has removed a number of large camps throughout the city as new shelter space has become available, much of it non-congregate enhanced shelter, including camps near Broadview-Thomson K-8 school near Bitter Lake and at Ballard Commons.
Mayor Jenny Durkan’s office released a statement following the Green Lake camp removal that reads in part, “Over the past several weeks, the City has successfully connected hundreds of individuals with a path to housing in key locations like City Hall Park, Ballard Commons, University Playground, and Pioneer Park, and will continue to move people indoors as more shelter comes online.”