A resident of the Royal Brougham encampment shares his thoughts about the site’s closure and how it might serve as an opportunity to transition his life. He also talks about working with the Navigation Team and it’s leader Sgt. Zer.
Note: More specific details about outreach services offered and accepted can be found at Royal Brougham encampment cleanup — the day after.
Trash, wooden pallets, needles and abandoned tents made an inviting, comfortable home for nests of rats living at the Royal Brougham encampment. But, it wasn’t a safe home for the residents who had lived there. On March 7, the City closed the encampment.“This is about the worst I’ve seen in Seattle,” said Darrell Rodgers of Seattle/King County Public Health, who oversees staff in the environmental health services and has visited a number of both sanctioned and unsanctioned camps throughout the county. “It’s inhumane to allow people to live here.”
There were 19 social service providers right outside the encampment, waiting to offer individualized services to the 37 residents remaining here on March 7. United Gospel Mission staff greeted some of the campers, as they have on their outreach visits here for the last several months, while REACH, Salvation Army, and Healthcare for the
Homeless offered such support as shelter beds, medical checks, and even entrance into treatment services for addiction. The City’s Navigation Team, which includes specially trained SPD officers and REACH case workers, have also been on scene offering similar services since the City first alerted residents on Feb. 24 of the coming closure.
Outreach follows the person-centered approach outlined in Pathways Home, the city’s overarching strategy for addressing homelessness. This means that each person identified what would help them, and the outreach workers assisted in coordinating the services. For some, it meant transportation to shelter where they could get a shower, and some hot food. For others, it was storing their belongings with the City or Salvation Army until they have an address, and for others it was needed cat food or beds for their pets.
Additionally, about 35 staff from the City’s Finance and Administrative Services (FAS), Human Services, Parks, Transportation, Seattle Public Utilities and the Seattle Fire Department were adding support to the cleanup in the form of field coordination, establishing the perimeter and traffic control, collection and transportation of belongings, stand-by medical support and more. FAS staff went through the camp first, and hand-picked anything that had been identified by campers as needing storage, and also salvaged anything left behind, such as identification cards or passports, sleeping bags or clothing, that someone might want later. “We found a pair of shoes that were in good condition, just in case someone asks about them,” said Chris Potter, Director of Operations for FAS. Items contaminated by soil, mold or other hazards were not stored.
City staff offered to store belongings for those on site during advance outreach and the day of the cleanup. On the day of the cleanup, staff collect, inventory, photograph and store personal belongings whether or not the individual is present, unless the items are clearly refuse, damaged, contaminated, hazardous or evidence of a crime. Information on how to retrieve items from storage is handed to campers (if on site) and posted at the site, should they return. Items are stored for at least 60 days.
The clean up at the Royal Brougham site is expected to last three days. The City will actively monitor and mitigate potential impacts on surrounding areas, including the East Duwamish Greenbelt, SODO and the International District, over the next several months.
Offering People Better Alternatives to an Unsafe Encampment
Due to serious public health hazards and significant criminal activity, including recent sexual exploitations of minors and other violence, the City is closing the Royal Brougham Way encampment tomorrow, Tuesday, March 7. Notice to vacate the property was provided to residents beginning on Feb. 24, with the official notice posted Thursday, March 2. The City’s new Navigation Team, Union Gospel Mission and other outreach providers have continuously visited the site to work with encampment residents to offer shelter and services.
Outreach follows the person-centered approach outlined in Pathways Home, the City’s overarching strategy for addressing homelessness. The Union Gospel Mission (UGM) has been visiting the residents in this encampment for several months, offering each person shelter and meeting with them individually to help locate additional services ranging from legal services, health and dental as well as addiction recovery services. Residents were also offered assistance in connecting with housing providers and case managers.
The City’s Navigation Team, which includes specially trained SPD officers and REACH case workers, have also been on site, connecting with residents and offering similar services. Additionally, the Seattle Animal Shelter is visiting the site to give pet owners basic supplies, as well as offering spay/neuters vouchers, vaccinations and transportation to and from the animal shelter for those services. This outreach will continue through March 7 and beyond.
- One couple expecting a baby has a pending spot at Mary’s Place.
- Several people have been assisted with replacing their IDs, which will open other opportunities.
- At least one person has been admitted into UGM’s treatment program.
- One individual has been connected to Evergreen Treatment Services to start methadone.
- Several people are working with DESC’s Support, Advocacy, Growth and Employment
- One couple has found housing; outreach is assisting with their moving.
- One woman has accepted a referral into Peter’s Place, a nearby shelter and service center.
- Facilitating repair of one man’s vehicle, after which he intends to travel home.
- Several people have been assisted with transportation so they could return to their families.
- Some have already moved to other encampment locations, including sanctioned tent cities.
- Some have expressed interest in the City’s Navigation Center when it opens.
Following closure, the cleanup at the Royal Brougham site is expected to last three days. The City will actively monitor and mitigate potential impacts on surrounding areas, including the EDGE, SODO and the International District, over the next several months.
Storage of Personal Belongings
City staff are actively assisting residents with storage of their personal belongings in advance of the March 7 closure. On the day of the cleanup, staff will collect, inventory, photograph and store personal belongings whether or not the individual is present, unless the items are clearly refuse, hazardous or evidence of a crime. Items heavily soiled with mud or human waste are not safe to store, as they would contaminate other items in the storage facility. Information on how to retrieve items from storage will be handed to campers (if on site) and posted at the site. Items are stored for at least 60 days.
Over the last several months, this encampment has drawn police and fire response for increasingly serious public safety threats. Since September 2016, the Seattle Police Department has received more than 100 dispatched calls for service and 36 significant incidents at this encampment. Aside from the sex trafficking, this includes multiple serious assaults, including a shooting and stabbing. During the same time, the Seattle Fire Department has been dispatched 41 times for fire and medic responses, including a recent significant fire. (see Fire Devours Three Tents At the Field; Fast-Thinking Campers Contain Blaze).
Seattle Police have also recently arrested two individuals for rape of a minor. According to victim accounts, it was widely known within the camp that at least three and up to up to six teenage girls were being trafficked and exploited within the camp. Those victim accounts stated that numerous men from the camp raped the girls and that the camp “leaders” asked the girls to leave the camp because they were drawing too much attention, but did not report any of this to police.
Stories covering these incidents include:
Public Health Issues
The Royal Brougham Way encampment has extreme public health hazards that according to public health officials cannot be remediated while the area is encamped. The site has been contaminated with a significant accumulation of human waste and is heavily infested with rodents. It is not safe for people to live at the site. These public health hazards are also not safe for anyone who comes into contact with people living at this encampment, in particular other homeless people who may come into contact with the residents at food banks or service centers.
While it was not one of the official City-sanctioned encampments, the City did employ harm-reduction measures at the encampment, including providing dumpsters and porta-potties, and installing fencing to contain the camp and reduce hazardous jay walking. The porta-potties were serviced daily and the dumpsters emptied four times a week. Cleaning crews and volunteer groups have attempted to remove large build-ups of trash over the last two months, but the site continues to be a source of significant garbage accumulation. Burned out or abandoned campsites, fecal contamination and a growing rat infestation have also made the site unsuitable for habitation.
Given this weekend’s forecast for cold weather and possible snow, severe weather shelter capacity is being extended:
- King County Severe Weather Shelter is open Friday night, Feb. 24, Sunday night, Feb. 26 and Monday night, Feb. 27, at the King County Administration Building at 500 4th Avenue in Seattle. The Severe Weather shelter is open from 7 p.m. to 6 a.m. and serves up to 50 adult men.
- Emergency overflow shelter will be available Saturday night, Feb. 25, at the William Booth Center at 811 Maynard Ave. South. Up to 50 adult men will be served at this location SATURDAY NIGHT ONLY.
- Women needing shelter during this period should go to the City Hall Shelter at 4th & Cherry in Seattle at 7 p.m.
Referrals are not required for emergency shelter.
These services are staffed by the Salvation Army. For weekday information, please contact 206-684-0231.
For additional information on homelessness services and response, visit http://www.seattle.gov/homelessness.
On Feb. 8, Mayor Ed Murray announced the creation of a new Navigation Team, comprised of outreach workers paired with specially trained Seattle Police Department (SPD) personnel, to connect unsheltered people to housing and critical resources, while helping address pervasive challenges around the issue of homelessness in Seattle.
The team has begun working with unsheltered people who have urgent and acute unmet needs, and will serve as the primary access point for people to be served by a forthcoming low-barrier Navigation Center.
The Navigation team is staffed by both outreach professionals from REACH and specially trained Seattle Police officers selected specifically for the unique role.
This team has advanced certification in crisis intervention and de-escalation techniques that lend themselves to the daunting tasks of reaching those most in need. The purpose of the team’s approach is to bring more people inside and create faster resolutions to hazardous situations.
They’ve begun working with unsheltered individuals who have urgent and acute unmet needs, including people who relocated from the I-5 East Duwamish Greenbelt and Mercer/Eastlake Corridors.
“The Navigation Team is working with people living with the most severe challenges, such as ongoing opiate addiction or mental health issues,” said Mayor Murray.
“This population of people living unsheltered are too often found in dire circumstances, in unauthorized encampments where they are more vulnerable to serious criminal activity.
Our outreach must focus on these specific challenges to achieve the goal of moving people living unsheltered into stable, permanent housing and helping them get back on their feet.”
Check back here to meet the Navigation Team in future posts and find out what motivates them into helping others find a better life.
The newly formed Navigation Team was dispatched to the I-5 corridor stretching from Colonnade Park to the Mercer on/offramp for several days starting in early February prior to a scheduled clean up. Their main focus was to conduct outreach to the community that had been reported living there over the last year and offer services ranging from shelter beds to medical attention. The team was also responding to the area following a string of significant criminal activity in the area, some of which was associated with the unauthorized encampments. The Fred Hutchison (formal name) and Seattle Cancer Care Alliance reported to the City that their patients and staff experienced significant safety issues, including 283 distinct incidents on their campus in 2016. The most significant incident occurred on Christmas Day 2016 when a transient woman severely stabbed the caregiver of a cancer patient inside one of the SCCA in-residence facilities. As a result, Fred Hutch and SCCA reported that they had to divert significant resources away from cancer care and toward security measures.
The Navigation Team contacted a woman there who was taken to the doctors after she was found living in the rafters of I-5 but in very poor health. In another incident, team members found a man with a foot injury who had minimal contact with the outside world for several days. He too was offered services and notified of the pending cleanup but refused service and was later able to make it out on his own.
A group consisting of 15-20 young adults were contacted by the Nav Team in a makeshift encampment that had been there for over a year according to some living there. The camp had no running water, electricity or adequate bathrooms though it had dug an outhouse style pit which is common in many camps.
After several days of outreach in early February by the Nav Team, the area was posted for campers to remove their belongings or risk having them removed for storage and/or disposal.
A designated Navigation Team member is on site before and during clean ups to determine what (if any) items will be stored for later retrieval by the owner. Notices are placed on or near the campsite.
Once that outreach and notification had taken place, clean up began. It would then take several days to collect and remove several tons of debris – including biohazards, empty propane tanks, spent camping supplies and soiled clothing.
Statistics are one way of measuring success, but so too are the stories behind the numbers. The Navigation Team and (soon to be built) Navigation Center will have both to consider in 2017 and we look forward in brining them and lessons learned to you in the coming weeks.