Mayor launches camp cleanup task force

A new task force convened by Mayor Ed Murray and Councilmember Sally Bagshaw is expected to make recommendations by the end of the month regarding the city’s cleanup protocol for encampments.

The Unsanctioned Encampments Cleanup Protocols Task Force, which will meet at least weekly through September, is comprised of several community stakeholders, from homeless service providers, business groups, and neighborhood organizations.

That includes Gretchen Taylor, representing the Neighborhood Safety Alliance.

Taylor, a Magnolia resident, also accompanied Bagshaw on a visit to San Francisco earlier this year to learn more about how that area is addressing homelessness. She said having a seat at the table in these discussions feels like acknowledgement of the work the NSA has done.

“We’re very grateful to all of a sudden now have the recognition and be heard as a voice seeking solutions,” Taylor said, “and we have compassion in looking at the crisis that we’re facing and looking at empathy in our suggestions for solutions.”

The task force members will attempt to improve how the city officially responds to encampments, after coming under fire from advocates for the way “sweeps” have been handled.

This means addressing issues of coordination and outreach by city departments to those affected by an impending sweep and what happens to their belongings when a sweep occurs, along with how to assuage public health and safety concerns that accompany the unsanctioned sites.

“Like many communities on the West Coast, Seattle is facing a homelessness crisis that we are working to address with compassion and by focusing on getting as many people into housing as possible,” Murray said in a statement. “As a city, that means both doing everything we can for those who are living on our streets and ensuring we are addressing any emerging public health and safety issues. I look forward to recommendations from the task force on how we can make this process work better for all involved.”

Each meeting of the task force, which is co-chaired by former Washington State Ferries director David Moseley and ex-city councilmember Sally Clark, will include periods for public comment, and members may invite community representatives or subject matter experts to present to the group.

New legislation based on the recommendations is will be submitted to the full city council in the coming weeks.

Taylor urged community members to stay updated with the situation.

“Stay attentive to the changes that are coming, because they are coming fast and furiously now, and have a voice in the matter,” she said.

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