Seattle’s mayor recently authorized a crackdown on homeless encampments within the city but seems to be keeping the actual execution of the pilot program quiet, so that the city’s social justice warriors don’t catch on.
The Seattle Times reports that, unlike other cities facing a homelessness crisis (which may be a thinly disguised addiction crisis), Seattle is trying to make headway against the temporary encampments clogging its city sidewalks, and cleaning up what amounts to both a security and hygiene threat to the city’s residents.
“Seattle removed 75% more homeless encampments in the first four months of this year than during the same period in 2018, even with this February’s record snowstorm slowing clean-ups,” the Times says, adding that most of the encampments being removed are “small encampments,” which don’t fall under a Seattle city provision requiring that city officials give “residents” 72-hour notice before booting them.
“The increase in removals,” the Times reports, “has been driven partly by a change in emphasis from time-consuming cleanups of sprawling camps to swift cleanups of smaller camps judged to be obstructions, hazards or persistently troublesome.”
The plan allows Seattle to remove encampments quickly — before they become legendary hazards — and the plan runs deliberately afoul of protective measures put into place by activists on behalf of those sleeping rough.
In Seattle, established camps — those over a certain size and of a certain duration — have to be given 72 hours notice of eviction, and those living in the camps must be provided with an alternate form of shelter. As the Times points out, that’s quite an ask of city officials, especially if they can’t immediately contact every resident of a tent city and every owner of an RV or car parked in a parking lot encampment.
Needless to say, the plan doesn’t sit well with the city’s more liberal residents, but Seattle’s mayor, Jenny Durkan, seems to believe this is the only way to address homelessness in a serious way.
“I think it was clear on the campaign trail what the philosophy was going to be,” she told local media. “I still believe strongly that leaving people in place, in inhumane and unsafe conditions, is not a strategy the city can have.”
The plan stands in stark contrast to plans in other cities struggling with chronic homelessness, like Los Angeles and San Francisco. Instead of focusing on breaking up encampments and handling the mental illness and addiction issues that often underlie homelessness, those cities have taken Seattle’s former approach to the problem: throwing money at cleaning programs that maintain a certain level of hygiene in the camps while paying for an ever-increasing number of temporary shelters and service providers.
Seattle found itself spending $90 million per year on the problem, but that pales in comparison to what San Francisco spent just last year: a whopping $241 million. Some estimates, according to the San Francisco Chronicle, put city spending at something like $40,000 per homeless individual.
Recently, a group calculated the cost to “end homelessness” in San Francisco, and came up with an incredible number — $12.7 billion — if San Francisco continues on its current trajectory of simply providing alternate housing for those sleeping on the streets and maintaining a full force of workers to keep encampments contained and city streets clear of hypodermic needles, filth, and feces.