Launched in February of 2017, the City of Seattle’s Navigation Team is comprised of specially trained police officers, field coordinators, and outreach workers who work every day to connect vulnerable people living unsheltered to services and safer spaces as well as to remove encampments that pose serious public health and safety risks.
Since taking office, Mayor Jenny Durkan has made important investments to expand the team’s capacity and to create hundreds of new shelter spaces for people experiencing homelessness. Earlier this year, Mayor Durkan announced “Path to 500” which will increase the City of Seattle’s bridge housing and shelter capacity by 25 percent. A number of these new investments have opened and many new shelter resources will be online in the coming months—these resources, in addition to the City’s tiny house villages, are critical to the Navigation Team’s work to connect people experiencing homelessness with more shelter resources.
Through the Navigation Team’s ongoing outreach efforts, the team made over 7,300 contacts in 2017 to a total of 1,829 individuals. As part of their efforts, 1,179 individuals accepted some sort of service and 675 individuals were successfully referred to shelter. To learn more, please visit this site for additional materials regarding the Navigation Team’s outreach efforts in 2017.
Preliminary figures for 2018 show the team is on pace to surpass last year’s outreach outcomes, making over 7,000 contacts to people experiencing homelessness and 474 referrals to shelter through the end of July.
Given the team’s ongoing outreach efforts coupled with Mayor Durkan’s investments in team expansion and shelter capacity, it is reasonable to anticipate the Navigation Team will successfully move more people off Seattle’s streets and into safer spaces than ever before.
Addressing Unsanctioned Encampments
Over last 20 months, the Navigation Team has learned how to best utilize outreach and removal resources to balance the needs of people experiencing homelessness and the surrounding community as allowed by the City’s published and approved protocols. The Navigations Team’s focus is on negative public health and safety impacts. With an estimated 400 unmanaged encampments throughout Seattle, the Navigation Team prioritizes encampments for removal based on the totality of the conditions within and around an encampment including removing encampments on public property.
These rules are designed to balance the rights of people living unsheltered with the City’s responsibility to maintain public health and safety. These protocols require the team to have shelter space available for all people being asked to leave an encampment that is being removed. The rules also require the team to provide written notice of removal at least 72 hours in advance, coupled with repeated offers of shelter, service, and storage of appropriate possessions. The City will remove an encampment without advanced written notice or offers of service and shelter if the encampment presents an immediate obstruction to public use of property, or the right-of-way, or presents a safety and health hazard.
Since launching in February of 2017, the Navigation Team has removed a total of 411 unsanctioned encampments. Of these encampments, 273 were given advance notice with repeated outreach including offers of service, storage of possessions, and shelter. 138 of the total encampments removed either posed an obstruction to public use, were located within the City’s designated emphasis areas, or were considered especially hazardous to public health and safety.
Below is a breakdown of the Navigation Team since February of 2017:
|72 Hour Notice||Obstruction/Hazards/Emphasis Area|
|2018 (thru July)||131||89|
To better maintain public health and safety, the team has focused on removing smaller encampments, under the City’s protocols, which pose obstructions and/or hazards to ensure sidewalks, roadways, and public spaces remain safe and open for all residents, businesses, and visitors to utilize. While this work to remove smaller encampments that pose obstructions and hazards to the public is ongoing, the team also continues to conduct intensive outreach and removals of larger-scale encampments throughout Seattle.