Seattle Parks and Recreation posted a notice Friday warning that they would start removing personal items this week. Sweeps began Tuesday and will run through Monday, May 16.
"It makes me feel real bad, Seattle, that this is the only alternative to homelessness, is to clean up everybody’s goods and throw it in a garbage can, and have no regret of doing it on top of it," said James Wlos, who is experiencing homelessness.
Woodland Park is known as a mecca for cross country runners, with more than three miles of rolling hills making it a popular destination. In September, friction grew with residents as homeless encampments started cropping up around the park, prompting demonstrators to petition the city to do something about it.
According to the city, their HOPE Team through the Human Services Department has been working to connect homeless residents to shelter and services before the sweeps began. During Tuesday's sweep, the HOPE Team conducted outreach services connecting people to housing, shelter and transportation. As of May 10 at Woodland Park, HOPE Team conducted:
- 55 referrals to Tiny House Villages
- 17 referrals to Enhanced Shelters
- 4 relocations to Permanent Housing alternatives
- 12 voluntary relocations by individuals on the by-name-list
A woman named Wanda said she was living at the park for three years before leaving one month ago. She said the HOPE Team helped her into transitional housing and is preparing to get her job back. Wanda said she hopes others will utilize the resources the city is offering and not end up on the streets again.
"I hope people don’t come back. I hope they offer enough housing that it gets people on their feet. Why would they want to come back? It’s sad," said Wanda.
The city said outreach will continue while they sweep homes from the park, including direct transportation to shelters. Personal items will be stored and can be retrieved by calling (206) 459-9949.
This week's closure affects the Upper Woodland tennis courts and Lower Woodland off-leash area, according to the city. Reservations at the tennis courts are canceled through Monday. Parks & Rec will be repairing picnic shelters, public restrooms and vegetation while they transition the park back to its intended use, officials say.