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.