'We don’t do sweeps here in Seattle:' City implements no shelter, no sweep policy

The decision makers in charge of the region’s homelessness efforts have tipped their hand to a new strategy regarding encampment removals - no shelter, no sweep.

"We don’t do sweeps here in Seattle" Mayor Bruce Harrell said on Thursday, touting the successes of the recent camp removal at Woodland Park.

Those same decision makers avoiding using the term ‘sweep’ whenever possible, but it’s a word the public understands. Shelter is another simple word the public can wrap their heads around.

The new strategy - dictated by those same leaders - will be based on the availability of temporary housing for the people being removed.

"We will let availability dictate the timeline," King County Regional Homeless Authority Marc Dones said at the same event. "We’ll let bed availability dictate the speed at which we move rather than force a false outcome".

The strategy puts pressure on the city and the KCRHA to have enough temporary housing like tiny house villages empty when an encampment is cleared.

Harrell says 60 people received referrals to tiny house villages, 25 got referrals to enhanced shelters where people can stay more than 24 hours and four were relocated to "permanent housing alternatives." We don’t know how many showed at the locations and accepted housing.

Wanda had been living unsheltered in and round the park for three years and accepted an offer of housing.

"It helped a lot, get pushed out the door, a boost for me" she said. "I’m not a bad person or any of these people are bad, you get stuck."

Bruce Harrell made the removal of the encampment at Woodland Park a campaign promise, however, it took the city four months after Harrell took office for outreach workers get to a point where the camp, one of the largest in the city’s recent history, was ready to be cleared.  

Despite criticism by park users and neighbors, Harrell and King County Regional Homelessness Authority CEO Marc Dones were in no rush.

"We took our time to get to know people" Dones said.

The new strategy is expected to be part of the Mayor’s long anticipated plan for the city’s homeless population, a plan his spokesperson says will be unveiled by the end of May.

People living in tents along state highways cannot stay if offered shelter, Gov. Inslee says

People living in encampments along state highway right-of-ways will soon have to make a decision, Governor Jay Inslee said: take shelter or move.

Dones is also asking for KCRHA’s sole funders, the City of Seattle and King County to nearly double its investment in 2023, despite the fact that 38 other cities the authority services have not invested any money into its operation.

"It’s a hefty ask," Dones told a May 11th meeting of the KCRHA’s Implementation board. The Governing board where six of its eleven members and elected officials are in the City of Seattle and King County government could approve the budget ask next week.

"I hope people don’t come back" to the park, Wanda said. "I hope they offer up enough housing that gets people on their feet."