The Seattle City Council approved a resolution setting out nonbinding guidelines for removing people from the homeless encampments known as The Jungle. Mayor Ed Murray is said to be on board with the plan.
The Seattle City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to approve a resolution setting out new guidelines for how the long-troubled homeless encampments known as The Jungle should be cleaned up and how residents of the encampments should be cleared out.
The resolution drawn up by Councilmember Sally Bagshaw with input from other council members and Mayor Ed Murray is aimed at slowing down and safeguarding the relocation process for people living in the encampments under and beside Interstate 5.
The council vote came two weeks after Murray and Gov. Jay Inslee announced a joint plan for The Jungle, where hundreds of people have lived, where trash has piled up and where in January a shooting left two people dead and three injured.
Under the resolution, the council and mayor agree that no one should be removed from The Jungle until outreach workers have made contact with every person living there and offered each one shelter and services that meet the person’s needs.
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The resolution calls for those offers and the destinations of people accepting help to be documented. It calls for the results to be shared with the council before any residents could be removed.
The resolution also calls for the mayor to give the council at least three business days’ notice before removing people unwilling or unable to accept help despite outreach efforts. People shouldn’t be arrested “simply for being homeless.”
The mayor agreed to have outreach workers provide residents of The Jungle with trash bags and needle receptacles while attempting to engage them.
Bagshaw’s resolution doesn’t mention portable toilets and says campers must be given “meaningful offers” of shelter without defining exactly what “meaningful” means.
Several council members, including Lisa Herbold, briefly argued Tuesday the council should delay a vote on the resolution to allow more time for consultation with organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington, which has threatened to sue the city over its sweeps of homeless campers.
They relented after Bagshaw described the resolution as only the beginning of a conversation and said she would consider a future ordinance to restrict sweeps.
Unlike ordinances, which carry the force of the law, council resolutions are merely expressions of the council’s collective opinion and are nonbinding.
Tuesday’s resolution includes buy-in from the mayor, however. Bagshaw worked with Murray’s office in hammering out the details, she said Tuesday.
Since the mayor unveiled his plan, saying the cleanup would begin after a few weeks of Union Gospel Mission outreach workers connecting with residents, critics on the council and elsewhere have questioned the approach. They’ve called for a more lenient timeline along with trash collection and portable toilets for the encampment dwellers.
But Murray acknowledged last week that clearing people out of The Jungle would take longer than a few weeks and would be complicated.
Though the mayor has backed away from a hard deadline for residents to be out of the encampments, the state Department of Transportation still intends to move cleanup equipment into the area in early June, a spokesman said last week.
Murray’s plan with Inslee includes a $1 million allocation from the state transportation budget to pay for that work and for securing the area.
Murray said last week there had been 91 emergency calls from The Jungle this year.
Firefighters doused a blaze there Sunday that started as a campfire, a Fire Department spokeswoman said. No one was injured.
In a letter last week, the Sodo Business Improvement Area called on the mayor and the council to hold to a firm date for emptying and cleaning up The Jungle rather than an extended timeline.