Limit homeless sweeps, Seattle council members say
The way homeless camps are regulated in Seattle could change soon.
Tuesday, the City Council proposed legislation to limit homeless sweeps. The legislation is against the wishes of Mayor Ed Murray and his administration.
The measure mirrors what homeless advocates have asked for. The city could only clear out homeless camps if residents get 30 days’ notice. If the policy is violated, the city would need to pay a fine directly to homeless people who were affected by the violation.
The mayor's administration has chastised the idea. But six council members voted to introduce it anyway. Councilmember Kshama Sawant said it's time to take action.
Sawant: "Rather than provide shelter and housing, the city is spending literally millions of dollars on moving homeless people from one street corner to the next, increasing their hardship and not solving the problem. It has to end."
Most council members who support the legislation admit it's not perfect, but say that it's important to make some change to homeless sweeps before winter.
Community members on both sides of the issue gave emotional testimony at the meeting.
Dr. Ming Xiao, D.C.: "Local businesses have been impacted by daily criminal activities in the International District. Seniors are even afraid to go outside. Your decision will make a huge impact on our community. Please vote no on 30 days."
Susan Russell: "People are not garbage, they should not be swept. We need a safety net, OK, tent encampments are a safety net. When you sweep people from one place to the next they cannot get their services, it puts them backwards."
Meanwhile, Councilmember Sally Bagshaw and Mayor Murray are heading up their own task force on homeless camps. They expect to have their proposal out by the end of the month.
Murray’s administration advised that the City Council wait for the task force’s recommendations, instead of proposing their own legislation.