Yesterday, the City took the next step to close the area that stretches from the I-90 on/off-ramps at Rainier Avenue South (the “Cloverleaf”) north to South Dearborn Street to unauthorized camping. The area has experienced increasing public safety and health concerns impacting homeless individuals and the surrounding community, and some of the land will soon be put to use by Sound Transit for the East Link Light Rail extension project (see previous post for more).
Since May 1, the City’s Navigation Team of specially trained Seattle Police officers and outreach workers has been conducting repeated, intensive outreach to individuals camping in this location, offering alternative shelter, individualized services and storage of personal belongings. Over the last two weeks, the Navigation Team made more than 300 documented contacts to a total of 56 people in the Cloverleaf area. Prior to yesterday’s effort, many individuals had accepted and were moved to alternate living situations, with most moving to the City-sanctioned encampments where they will receive case management to get the support needed to move onto a more permanent living situation.
By the time the Cloverleaf was closed to camping yesterday, 26 people had moved to alternate living arrangements, including 21 who moved to sanctioned encampments. As with other encampment removals, services beyond alternative shelter were offered, resulting in the following:
— Seven people assisted in securing state ID.
— Three people provided with medical assistance at the encampment site.
— Four people received coordinated entry housing assessments.
— 11 people connected to case management services.
— Six people referred to MID employment coordinator for assistance with housing.
— 32 total mental health outreach contacts provided on May 11, 15-16.
Nine individuals declined any options offered. Another eight disclosed they would look for another place to camp. Still, the Navigation Team is seeing positive outcomes through offers of a comprehensive service package along with significant assertive and mental health outreach. This particular effort included essential support from REACH, Union Gospel Mission and the Mental Health Outreach Team.
A group of neighbors and other community members have been generously supporting individuals living unsheltered in these locations, including providing a weekly meal service, delivery of supplies and assistance with trash cleanup. Once the area was scheduled for closure, these neighbors reached out to the City to see how they could support the individuals during the cleanup. The City welcomed their assistance, happy to collaborate with these neighbors and provide a space where they served coffee and breakfast and could engage with individuals exiting the camp. This model could be replicated at future encampment removals, as long as it is coordinated in advance.
In addition to the Navigation Team and outreach working with individuals, City field coordinators assisted people with storage of belongings. Cleanup crews were on standby until people had moved. Today, City crews are continuing cleanup and SDOT has begun fencing work around the Cloverleaf. Parks and SDOT crews will begin vegetation removal and tree pruning tomorrow.
Next Tuesday, May 23, cleanup and closure efforts will move north to South Dean Street and Poplar Place South, and along South Dearborn Street to 10th Avenue South. On June 1, per an agreement with WSDOT, Sound Transit will begin utilizing the area roughly between South Dearborn Street and I-90, from 10th Avenue South on the west to South Dean Street on the east, as a staging area for construction of the East Link Light Rail extension.
These areas will be designated emphasis areas, which means that they will be posted with signs and regularly monitored. The removal of tents and belongings from posted emphasis areas does not require notice as with other encampments, though personal belongings will be stored when found.