Woodland Park, Site of Seattle’s Largest Encampment, Now “Highest-Priority Site In the City”

Then-candidate Bruce Harrell at a press conference near the Woodland Park encampment in summer 2021.
Then-candidate Bruce Harrell at a press conference near the Woodland Park encampment in summer 2021.

By Erica C. Barnett

A large, longstanding encampment in Upper Woodland Park has now become “the highest-priority [encampment] site in the city,” City Councilmember Dan Strauss, whose district includes the park, told PubliCola yesterday. Strauss and Mayor Bruce Harrell’s office said city officials are meeting weekly with outreach providers to come up with a strategy for the encampment, which includes about 70 tents and as many as 100 people, including some who had been living in a nearby encampment the city’s Parks Department removed late last month.

The encampment is on the city’s official “priority list” for January, a designation bestowed on encampments the city is about to sweep.

Ordinarily, when an encampment is on the priority list, a group of city outreach workers called the HOPE Team goes to the site and offers the people living there whatever shelter happens to be available. Although the HOPE Team has exclusive access to some beds that are not available to other outreach providers, there are often no more than one or two beds available across the city, and those beds may not be suitable for every person living at an encampment.

Practically speaking, it would be impossible to move everyone living in even a midsize encampment into shelter in the few days the HOPE Team usually spends doing outreach before a sweep, even if the shelter that became available that week happened to be appropriate for those specific encampment residents. As a result, encampment sweeps tend to earn their name—encampment residents describe being swept from one site to another and then swept again, moving around neighborhoods in an endless round robin of sweeps.

“The mayor is … acting with a new urgency in aggressively pursuing alternative shelter options, considering a wide range of options from leasing or buying existing buildings to standing up tiny house villages.”—Jamie Housen, spokesman for Mayor Bruce Harrell

Strauss says the Woodland Park removal will be different. Like the recent successful effort to remove a smaller encampment at the Ballard Commons park, he said, the city will send service providers into the encampment to collect the names of everyone living there, assess their needs, and assign each person to appropriate housing or shelter as it becomes available. “Our ability to place people in shelter will depend on two things: One, throughput for people who are in shelter into affordable housing” so that existing shelter beds become available, “and then, secondly shelter expansion.”

Strauss acknowledges that the Ballard Commons was successful precisely because several brand-new shelter facilities became available all at once, creating temporary excess capacity in the shelter system so that people actually had places to go. With Woodland Park, the situation is different; it’s impossible to move people into shelter that doesn’t exist.

Mayoral spokesman Jamie Housen said Harrell is “acting with a new urgency in aggressively pursuing alternative shelter options, considering a wide range of options from leasing or buying existing buildings to standing up tiny house villages.” Harrell, Housen added, “is committed to ensuring progress at the site and is doing so by engaging the City with community, providers, and stakeholders in a constructive, methodical, and effective approach that drives visible change and improved outcomes for encampment residents and Woodland Park community members as quickly as possible.”

Low-Income Housing Institute director Sharon Lee said LIHI—the city’s primary tiny-house village provider—has not heard anything about a proposal for new tiny houses to shelter people living in Woodland Park. Typically, standing up a new tiny house village is a process that requires funding from the city through the budget process, which happens annually with “supplemental” budget changes every three months, followed by a request for proposals and selection process.

During a meeting of the King County Homelessness Authority’s governing board on Thursday, KCRHA director Marc Dones said the biggest challenge to standing up new shelters and tiny house villages isn’t funding but staffing. Recently, they said, “we have had shelters operate overnight shifts with a single person, which is simply not advisable.” The authority’s budget, which is primarily supplied by the city of Seattle, includes funding to expand Camp Second Chance in West Seattle.

In the meantime, Strauss said during a meeting of the Greenlake Community Council Wednesday night, the city will begin working on “short-term supports like trash mitigation and hygiene mitigation. So if you see a port-a-potty go up, or a handwashing station, or a Dumpster, this does not indicate a sanctioned encampment. It is a temporary placement. It will go up and it will go down.” The specific timeline for this process, Strauss said, will be “based on shelter capacity.”

17 thoughts on “Woodland Park, Site of Seattle’s Largest Encampment, Now “Highest-Priority Site In the City””

  1. steve willie sad, steve willie no like when big mean progressives post article.
    Steve Willie

    1. You have no facts so you are left with pretending to be me, but acting like the total dumb-fuck you are. Great show. I hope you live in Seattle.

  2. Building more shelters is only a short-term solution. So I invented what I call the Erica Barnett intelligence test: If you think more free stuff only increases homelessness in the long term, then you have above-average intelligence (compared to this website). However, if you think free stuff solves homelessness in the long-term, you are quite the dim-wit. But don’t worry, I will be here to make fun of you idiots when your “solution” fails like a face-plant on YouTube. Steve Willie.

    1. Can you be more specific when you repeatedly comment about “free stuff”? What exactly do you see as enabling and not just simply humane? I guess your theory is that if the population in question can just be allowed to suffer more, then they will themselves figure out a way (finally) to stop all that and move along.

    2. Right, liberals do not have a solution to this problem (or it would be solved 😉 they just try to minimize it.
      I am curious, what is the conservative solution? If it’s free market (those who want housing work hard enough to buy it at market price) then that is what we have, homeless encampments.
      If liberals just minimize, not solve the problem, how would conservatives actually solve it?

    3. I, Steve Willie, very smart man, will post all my smartest thoughts in the comment section of Blog I Don’t Like. This makes Steve Willie feel powerful and strong.
      Steve Willie

  3. Luckily for us, Steve is very entertaining, as the “Seattle Is Dying” crowd always uses the same script.

  4. It takes time and resources to bring new shelter capacity online. Does the city really have the funding and resources to do this? I wonder. Perhaps Mayor Harrell has a ‘magic wand’ to make this happen though I am doubtful he does.

    1. jdarsie2017: Seattle is dying. You need to adapt to this new reality. Watch the documentary. It contains not a single false statement. So much Chinese Fentanyl is pouring across Joe Biden’s wide-open southern border that the cost has gone down to $2 per hit. This is far cheaper than the cocaine alternative. It is simple supply and demand. Try taking a class on real economics, not fake-news Progressive economics. Nobody climbs out of homelessness until they can beat the addiction. Progressives are real jokers, but at least they are funny for those who don’t suffer from their stupidity. Mid-term elections are coming up. You could solve this problem if you wanted to, but lucky for me…you don’t. Steve Willie.

      1. There you go again, Steve. Declaring all homeless people addicts when the reality is that is only a vast minority of them. Much like your “40 kinds of free stuff” narrative, when in reality Seattle only provides a scant fraction of the “free stuff” most cities its size and larger in the US do. Time to enter the real world. Your propaganda isn’t any more accurate just because you like to repeat it ad infinitum.

      2. A Joy : So you are suggesting that the reason why Seattle has a slightly lower homeless population than Los Angeles and San Francisco is because they have slightly less free stuff? You are ….ding-ding-ding ….CORRECT! Maybe my work here is almost done. Steve Willie.

    2. Jean I think they could camp in the park up in Blue Ridge. That’s fenced and secure and would give them a safe place to be till shelter opens and allow Woodland Park to be remediated.

  5. Perhaps you should read the article again. It says that there are currently few places for people to go, but as soon as shelter spaces open, they will be able to move into those spaces. In the meantime, Woodland Park is quite large; surely you can find areas where you will enjoy visiting for a short while, and then return to your warm private house.

    1. sallykinney: In other words, if you crap up a public space long enough, you get more free stuff. Seattle now offers 40 kinds of free stuff for those on a bad plan. Moving people into a shelter only solves the problem in the minds of idiots. I guarantee you that if you could snap your fingers and make them disappear into a shelter, the park would be full again within a month. Was the problem solved? Ironically YES. I needed entertainment, and you provided it. Lets do this again soon. Steve Willie.

      1. Actually Steve, LA is right next to Seattle and NYC in giving out very little. And all have/have had significant issues with homelessness. It’s almost like a robust social safety net keeps people off the streets. You know, the exact opposite of the propaganda you keep peddling.

  6. We’re sick of this! Strauss is useless. This encampment has been left too long, and now it appears even though it’s “the highest priority,” it will be left to remain for no one knows how much longer. Time to do something permanent to return Woodland Park to full use by all the city.

    1. sp88ky: There you go again…. trying to use truth and logic on Progressives. That’s pissing into the wind…. playing Bingo with chimpanzees. They only double-down on stupidity when you do that. Just do what I do….make fun of them. You will be entertained and stay sane longer. Steve Willie.

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