Editor's note: The above video on Mayor Bruce Harrell's plan to tackle homelessness originally aired February 15, 2022.
SEATTLE – Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell has been focused on clearing the homeless encampment at Woodland Park since taking office in January, saying it was the last remaining park-based camp of “significant size.”
Over the weekend, Harrell’s office announced that it was in the final phase of outreach for this encampment, about a day before marking four months of his administration.
Initially, the city began by bringing together the King County Regional Homelessness Authority and other outreach partners to collaborate on a “person-centered” approach.
In the second phase of outreach work, the city developed a by-name list of those living in the park. These lists include the names of those living in the camp as well as their needs as far as shelter resources.
As of April 28, the outreach work resulted in at least 35 referrals to shelter or housing, including about five people who were not on the by-name list. This accounts for just over half of the 61 people who were identified as living in the encampment long-term in February, according to the city.
Additionally, the city said that 10 people on the by-name list voluntarily relocated from the park.
The final phase of outreach continues offering shelter to those still living in the park but also implements plans to bring in crews with Seattle Parks and Recreation to begin restoring the park. This work includes repairing picnic shelters, public restrooms and vegetation.
Seattle has taken months to develop and implement its outreach strategy for Woodland Park, similar to a strategy it's used for other large encampments in recent months including one in the adjacent Green Lake Park.
In December before Harrell took office, the city said about 30 individuals who were living at Green Lake Park encampment either accepted shelter referrals or relocated before crews arrived to clear trash and belongings left over by camp residents.
However, the city acknowledged then that it had a long way to go before it would be able to restore Woodland Park, saying at the time that at least 100 people were living there unsheltered.
Shortly after taking office, Harrell addressed the city council in an effort to inspire urgency in the work to remove the encampment at Woodland Park, calling it a “top priority” for his office.
The city didn’t give any timeline on when residents can expect the encampment to be fully removed from Woodland Park, but it said in a release that this final phase is when most shelter and housing placements occur.