SEATTLE - The City of Seattle scheduled a cleanup of a homeless encampment at Denny Park for March 3rd at 9 a.m.
Some campers started clearing out of the popular park in Seattle’s South Lake Union on Tuesday, while others stayed on-site to wait it out.
Mary Strickland packed up everything she owned and left the park. She and other people received a city notice on their tent Monday to remove personal property before Wednesday’s deadline.
"They give you two days to move—that’s not the most amount of time for anything. So you just hope that the next place you pick isn’t on their radar," said Strickland.
Officials said the encampment "presents a hazard" and "obstructs the intended use" of the park. Any belongings left behind will be collected and stored for up to 70 days at no charge.
Dan Jacobs is with Friends of Denny Park, a group that faces challenges bringing programs and events to the park because of the tents.
"A lot of the work that we’ve done over the last three or four years to bring the park back to life has just been completely decimated over this past year. It just really wasn’t set up to house that many people over that much of a period of time," said Jacobs.
Seattle Police said there were 66 calls for service to the park between November 2020 and February 2021. 14 of those calls were for domestic violence, rape, assault and arson. Recently at a homeless encampment in Pioneer Square, officers said they made eight arrests for crimes including drug trafficking and weapons charges.
Jacobs, also with the faith-based group Sanctuary at Denny Park, said a lot of the crime has been cleaned up at the park thanks to local advocates and volunteers.
"It’s measurably different than it was six months ago when we really did need some intervention and there were some people really in crisis mode," said Jacobs.
Though crime has slowed some at the park, police said crews will be standing by to ensure city employees are safe during the cleanup. Jacobs said he is surprised the sweep is happening in the first place.
"I don’t think sweeps are the answer. I just think that pushes it off somewhere else. It harms the people that are already in a stressful situation and they’re just going to be moving on down the road and starting all over again," said Jacobs.
He said he believes the city can put efforts towards helping people like Strickland rebuild their lives.
"They have individual needs and they kind of get lost in the system sometimes. They’re not a ‘one size fits all,'" said Jacobs.
"I’m one of those people I don’t fit little boxes. I don’t have children under 18, I’m not over 65, I’m not a veteran, I’m not disabled according to this county, I’m not a battered woman. I’m not any of those things so I don’t fit the categories, so they don’t have any place for me to go," said Strickland.
The city’s outreach teams will be at the park Wednesday connecting people to resources for anyone interested. Strickland said she is hopeful some information can help her become more self-sufficient.
"I have great job history. I worked for the same company for 17 years, I’ve had professional jobs, I’ve been on county board committees. I had a whole other life before stuff happened that put me out here. I have rental history, I owned my own house just a few years ago," said Strickland. "My situation is just as dire as anybody else’s. Just because I’m coherent and can have a conversation with you and fill out paperwork doesn’t mean that I don’t need help...I’m trying the best I can. I just keep getting looked over, keep falling through the cracks."