In response to a situation that posed a significant public safety and health risk, the City of Seattle’s Navigation Team removed an unmanaged encampment in the area behind the Navigation Center on a public stairwell. Prior to today’s action, the Navigation Team engaged with those living in the encampment area 12 times, resulting in 80 engagements and 12 referrals to shelter, since March 1. The Navigation Team has distributed 148 hygiene kits in the area.
There were nine individuals on site this morning before the removal started. System Navigators offered shelter to each individual on site, which included shelter within the 95 shelter spaces that opened up this week at three shelters across Seattle. Preliminary numbers show three individuals accepted shelter at these shelters from this encampment today. System Navigators arranged for transportation of both people and possessions to these locations.
Up until today’s encampment removal, the Navigation Team and partner City agencies engaged this site multiple times a week. In addition to essential outreach services, the Team provided Public Health – Seattle & King County COVID-19 and hepatitis A flyers, shelter referrals, and mitigation efforts included trash bag distribution and collection, debris removal, and sharps collection.
This action took place for the following public safety reasons:
- The encampment was on the staircase immediately to the south of the Navigation Center and created growing public safety concerns as documented by the Seattle Police Department (SPD), including violent crimes. Please contact SPD for details.
- Due to the steep and narrow terrain of the area, SPD is unable to effectively patrol the staircase, which is a contributing factor to the documented criminal activity in the area.
- As the area became more densely populated, the blocked staircase and fire hydrant prevented outreach, waste removal crews, SPD and SFD from safely accessing the encampment, furthering public safety and public health concerns.
Additionally, the high density of tents and structures in the confined area had the potential for the spread of COVID-19 and hepatitis A. Per public health guidance, de-intensifying congregate spaces to help mitigate spread of the COVID-19 illness and other communicable diseases has been a priority for HSD. With new enhanced shelter beds available over the past week – reported as the most highly sought shelter spaces by people experiencing homelessness -the City as more enhanced shelter resources to offer people living unsheltered at this time.
Navigation Team members have continued outreach throughout Seattle and distributed 1,663 hygiene kits, Public Health—Seattle & King County COVID-19 and hepatitis A flyers, and hygiene services maps through April 12, 2020.
Except for extreme circumstances, during the COVID-19 crisis, the Navigation Team’s focus is on outreach, referrals to shelter, distribution of information about COVID-19, and hygiene kits. The removal of the encampment on the Navigation Center stairs aligns with the Navigation Team’s COVID-19 operational plan — and was the first removal under these guidelines — which calls for encampment removals in response to a significant public safety danger to occupants or the greater community.
The Navigation Team will continue to monitor the area to discourage the return of unsafe living conditions. The team will continue engaging individuals living in the area—many of which the team has interacted with for a number of years—to connect them to services and shelter.