Following multiple outreach visits, the City’s Navigation Team, a group of outreach workers and specially trained police officers, removed an unsanctioned encampment from the Ravenna Woods yesterday. A previous encampment in the same area was removed in July.
During inspection and outreach, the Navigation Team observed several large structures, excessive amounts of uncollected garbage and used hypodermic needles, human waste, rats and fire risks. Additionally, the encampment’s placement on a steep slope and near trees was causing damage to the physical environment, as well as risk to the campers themselves, who could be injured by falling limbs. These conditions, which pose risks to the public health and safety of the campers and the surrounding community led to remediation of the encampment. During encampment clean-up, team members found an extension cord spliced into the power-grid of a nearby apartment building, which further raises fire and safety concerns, and is illegal.
Camping is prohibited in City parks, and per City rules governing unsanctioned encampment removals, an unsanctioned encampment in a City park is considered an obstruction that interferes with the use of public property (See FAS Encampment Rule 17-01, Section 3.4.) and can be removed immediately without notice or offers of shelter and storage. However, even with the authority to remove the encampment immediately, the City chose to conduct outreach to campers in hopes of connecting people living unsheltered to services and shelter and provided notice a week in advance of yesterday’s activities.
City personnel will work with people to safely store or move personal belongings; abandoned items unsuitable for storage will be removed. During the engagement in the Ravenna Woods, two campers told field coordinators they had collected all they wanted and everything left behind could be discarded. One bike found in the debris was stored.
Unrelated to the Navigation Team’s engagement with the individuals in the encampment, on Monday, Dec. 4, SPD officers from the North Precinct made an arrest in the nearby Ravenna Park. The bike patrol officers were on proactive patrol for the North Precinct and were not present by request of the Navigation Team. Officers did not make arrests in the encampment nor run background checks on individuals, but later recognized an individual in Ravenna Park suspected in felony burglary incidents and made an arrest. For more details on this incident, please contact SPD’s Public Affairs Office at 206-684-5520 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
To learn more about why an unsanctioned encampment is removed, please visit the City’s Homelessness Response Blog. You can also read recent media coverage on the Navigation Team’s approach to outreach here.