Prior to the encampment removals at S. Weller St. and King St. under I-5, the Navigation Team made 63 referrals into shelter through extensive outreach since April 1. Of those shelter referrals, 26 were to recently opened tiny home villages and enhanced shelter beds at Lake Union Village, T.C. Spirit Village, and Lakefront Community House. Preliminary data from early May shows approximately 70% of all referrals the Navigation Team has made citywide since mid-April arrived and enrolled at these new shelter resources. Understanding these three new locations were solely for Navigation Team referrals, the City can confirm referrals to these shelter programs during this time period.
In total, between advanced outreach and outreach done during the removals, the team made 88 referrals to shelter from these locations since April 1.
South King Street Unauthorized Encampment May 20 Removal Update: On the day of removal, there were 33 enhanced shelter beds available for the 19 unsheltered individuals on site. All those engaged were offered shelter and 9 individuals accepted. The Navigation Team identified 10 tents and 1 structure at the beginning of the operation. Storage was provided to individuals onsite and resulted in 2 bins being stored along with 4 bikes. Outreach was conducted by three System Navigator outreach specialists during this action.
South Weller Street Unauthorized Encampment May 21 Removal Update: The Navigation Team had 34 enhanced shelter beds available for the 26 people identified on site during the removal. Two System Navigators referred 16 unsheltered individuals into shelter during the operation. A survey by the Navigation Team identified 45 tents and 1 structure, many of which appeared abandoned. Storage was once again provided and 8 bins of storage were collected from 7 different abandoned tents. Transportation was provided by the Navigation Team for 2 individuals to shelter.
Many community based organizations including International Community Health Services, Seattle Indian Health Board, Asian Counseling and Referral Services, Chong Wa Benevolent Association, and Friends of Little Saigon had been seeing the escalating public safety and public health issues at these locations. These longtime community organizations, who are serving vulnerable populations, urged the City to act at these locations while connecting individuals with safe shelter, which was offered at both locations.
Note—the outreach figures are preliminary. Shelter enrollment occurs after service providers input client intake into HMIS. HMIS data is then compared to Navigation Team data. Also, shelter bed availability changes daily following shelter vacancy reporting to the Navigation Team.
The release below was originally published on 5/19/2020:
Since refocusing in March to respond to the COVID-19 crisis, the Navigation Team has focused primarily on outreach across Seattle, making 122 site visits for outreach, conducting 379 litter and debris mitigation operations, and referring 270 people to shelter. The team has also provided 2,550 hygiene kits, 2,225 COVID-19 and hepatitis A related public health flyers and provided 706 boxed meals to individuals living unsheltered.
During this outreach-focused period, the team limited encampment removal operations to only extreme circumstances where unauthorized encampments presented obstructions and hazards that threatened public health and safety to individuals within the encampment and surrounding community. To date, two encampment removals have occurred to preserve public health and safety.
Public Safety Concerns in Chinatown-International District & Little Saigon
After extensive and prolonged outreach, including the offer of available shelter to all individuals engaged, the Navigation Team will remove two additional unauthorized encampments this week in response to growing public health and safety concerns in the Chinatown-International District and Little Saigon. The encampments are located along S. Weller St. and King St. under I-5.
The significant public safety concerns posed by these encampments present an extreme circumstance, threatening the safety and well-being of people living unsheltered in the area and the surrounding community. A number of community organizations, including Friends of Little Saigon and the Chong Wa Benevolent Association, had raised concerns about numerous negative impacts the unauthorized encampments were having on the community. Navigation Team outreach will continue with offers of services and shelter through the unauthorized encampment removal process.
Following the same protocols of addressing obstructions and hazards, including advanced written notice, the Navigation Team also provided advance notice of the removal to people living unsheltered and to outreach providers to allow more time for them to engage clients in the area.
These unauthorized encampments are set for removal based on recent public safety issues and the ongoing obstructions to sidewalks and public rights of way. Many of these obstructions are blocking access for members of the community—many who are older people living in the Chinatown-ID and Little Saigon communities—impeding their ability to walk safely to essential services.
In addition, the deteriorating conditions within these unauthorized encampments, including human biowaste, needles, garbage and public safety concerns all pose an extreme risk to people living unsheltered, housed residents, and surrounding businesses. The Navigation Team and City partners have created outreach and garbage removal routes across the City, which includes these encampments, and are providing services 7-days a week. Despite these efforts, conditions at both sites have worsened. Additionally, the Seattle Fire Department has reported 23 fires in the area of the two encampments related to homelessness since March 1, presenting an immediate fire and safety hazard to infrastructure and the public.
Currently, Navigation Team outreach specialists are visiting these sites daily, encouraging individuals to accept referrals to services, shelter and move indoors. The team is working with shelter providers to ensure shelter is available for people interested in moving inside on the day of the removals. In addition to enhanced shelter and tiny house village spaces, the Navigation Team has access to shelter beds at other City-funded shelter programs operated by DESC, Salvation Army, and Compass Housing. While offers of shelter and bed availability are not required for an obstruction and hazard removal, the City is committed to ensuring every person living in these unauthorized encampments is offered an available shelter bed.
South King Street Unauthorized Encampment Outreach
One unauthorized encampment, located in the area of South King Street under I-5 and part of the International District and I-5 Emphasis Area, has approximately 20 structures*. The unauthorized encampment will be removed on Wednesday, May 20. Advanced verbal and written notice were provided to people living within the encampment. South King Street will be closed between 8th Avenue South and 10th Avenue South from 8 a.m. until the operation is complete.
Since April 1, the Navigation Team has visited this site at 13 times, making 47 engagements (duplicated) and 1 referral to shelter. The team has provided 44 hygiene kits, 28 COVID-19 related public health flyers, and 20 boxed meals at the South King Street unauthorized encampment. While this encampment is not as large as the Weller site, conditions within the encampment are a threat to public health and safety and pose an extreme circumstance.
The most significant risks at this location are:
- There was a firearm homicide involving encampment residents on April 10th.
- SPD has reported a doubling of “on-view” incidents, (where officers come across an event on their own without being dispatched), with a primary uptick in April, creating an unsafe environment for occupants in the unauthorized encampment and the surrounding community.
- The growing number of people living unsheltered and in close/dense proximity increases the risk for both COVID-19 and hepatitis A exposure and spread and other communicable diseases.
- The prevalence of solid waste, biowaste, food waste, and loose sharps posed a significant public health risk despite continued Navigation Team outreach and litter/debris mitigation.
- Living structures and stored materials obstructed safe access to sidewalks, rights-of-ways, and also present a fire hazard to freeway infrastructure.
South Weller Street Unauthorized Encampment Outreach
The unauthorized encampment that stretches on South Weller Street from 12th Avenue South to Rainer Avenue South currently includes approximately 45 tents and structures*. It is scheduled for removal on Thursday, May 21. Weller Street will be closed to traffic during the removal. People living on site were provided advanced verbal and written notice of the obstruction removal.
The Navigation Team has been visiting the S. Weller St. unauthorized encampment at least three times per week. Overall, since April 1, the Navigation Team has made 40 referrals to shelter, over 29 site visits, 378 engagements (duplicated) and provided 204 hygiene kits, 206 COVID-19 related public health flyers, and 222 boxed lunches to occupants of this unauthorized encampment.
Since just April 21, the Navigation Team has referred 26 individuals from the unauthorized South Weller Street encampment vicinity to recently opened tiny home villages and enhanced shelter beds at Lake Union Village, T.C. Spirit Village, and Lakefront Community House. Shelter will be offered to all individuals living on site leading up to and during the removal. Preliminary data shows approximately 70% of all referrals the Navigation Team has made citywide since mid-April arrived and enrolled at these new shelter resources.
The most significant risks at this location are:
- SPD officers investigated a shooting in the encampment on May 10 and found a woman with a gunshot wound to the chest. SFD transported the victim to Harborview Medical Center. Homicide unit is investigating the incident.
- There have been three reports of shots fired since April, one as recently as April 26th. SPD data shows reports of rape, aggravated assault, robbery, and burglaries on this block in the past 28 days alone. Recently there was a stabbing in the area.
- Data shows that year-to-date there has been a 65% increase in Seattle Police Department “on-view” incidents in the vicinity with the primary uptick in April, creating an unsafe environment for occupants in the unauthorized encampment and the surrounding community.
- The growing number of people living unsheltered and in close/dense proximity without safe social distancing increases the risk for individuals to contract both COVID-19, Hepatitis A, and other communicable diseases.
- The prevalence of solid waste, hazardous materials, biowaste, chemical waste, food waste, and loose sharps posed a significant public health risk despite continued Navigation Team outreach and litter/debris mitigation.
- Living structures and stored materials obstructed safe access to sidewalks and rights-of-ways.
As with all encampment removals, suitable items found or requested to be stored at these locations will be placed into storage by the Navigation Team. The team will also leave notice for how individuals can retrieve their belongings.
This post will be updated with outreach and shelter referral information as it becomes available. Data is preliminary and subject to change as data entry is completed and finalized.
*Note-the number of tents is not an accurate representation of the number of people at the encampment. Some tents and structures are used for storage, have multiple individuals living in them, or may be abandoned. Additionally, there are a number of people who are present within the encampment but do not stay overnight in the area.