The following letter was sent to the Seattle Police Department, Mayor’s Office, and Seattle Department of Human Resources on Monday.
On April 3, 2020, the Seattle Community Police Commission (CPC) issued several recommendations to the Seattle Police Department and the Mayor’s office regarding the removal of homeless encampments during the Coronavirus pandemic. The following advisements are relayed on behalf of the CPC in response to the continued sweeps of homeless encampments.
In advance of this communication, we attempted to reach out to the Navigation Team to answer questions about our concerns. However, we have not received answers.
The CPC advises the City, Navigation Team, and Seattle Police Department not to remove people experiencing homelessness from encampments unless the following steps are taken:
- A public health official must be consulted if the justification of any encampment removal is for public health reasons. That official’s written reasoning for the encampment removal should be made public on the City’s “Homeless Response Blog” prior to the encampment’s removal.
- When obstruction is the justification of an encampment removal, every effort must be made to correct that obstruction before the encampment removal process begins. The Navigation team must, therefore, make attempts to correct the problem and issue warnings with sufficient time for the occupants to correct the obstruction before the encampment approval process begins. If it is necessary to remove an encampment due to an obstruction, the removal should only include the property causing the obstruction.
- To the extent an encampment does need to be removed in accordance with current City policy and the advisements above, the City must offer individual housing such as hotel rooms to everyone who is displaced. The City can and should partner with organizations already offering these services.
These advisements are consistent with the CPC’s Coronavirus Emergency recommendations, the CPC’s understanding of the City’s policy announced on March 17, 2020 to only remove encampments under “extreme circumstance,” and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations.
The CPC requests a response to these advisements prior to the City engaging in any more encampment removals. The pandemic has been devastating to people experiencing homelessness and the negative impacts of encampment removals must be considered before engaging in the displacement of vulnerable individuals.
CPC CO-Chairs Rev. Harriett Walden, Rev. Aaron Williams, Prachi Dave