After taking office, Mayor Bruce Harrell named Woodland Park a major priority for his new administration as the last remaining park-based encampment of significant size. Mayor Harrell set dual goals of helping those living unsheltered get on a path towards more permanent housing options and restoring the public park for use by all residents. We all want safe and clean public parks, and we can agree that homelessness is a humanitarian crisis where people should never have to live outside.
In January, the Mayor’s Office and Councilmember Strauss convened a coordinated effort – for the first time bringing in King County Regional Homelessness Authority with REACH, the City’s Unified Care Team, HOPE Team, Parks and Recreation Department (SPR), and community leaders like the Phinney Neighborhood Association. This collaboration allowed for a person-centered outreach effort in Upper Woodland Park to ensure that we offer appropriate shelter and services, address ongoing public health and safety concerns, and restore community access to the park.
Through weekly coordination meetings, a strategic and phased engagement plan was implemented in consideration of the encampment’s physical size, the large number of people experiencing homelessness needing connections to shelter and services, and limited shelter availability citywide.
The first phase started in January and focused on deploying harm reduction while assessing the needs of those residing in the park. The HOPE Team and REACH began visiting the site near daily to build relationships and learn more about the people living in the encampment. Seattle Parks and Recreation began trash removal three times a week and increased access to temporary bathrooms and hygiene support.
In February, the second phase began which included developing a by-name-list of everyone residing in the park. The by-name-list includes detailed information on desired shelter resources to assist with case planning and service matching with a focus on making lasting connections to shelter.
Outreach efforts are currently in the third and final phase, when most shelter and housing placements occur. HOPE Team System Navigators, REACH, and other provider partners are actively making connections to services and shelter which include 24/7 enhanced shelter options with onsite services, including non-congregate options such as tiny houses. These efforts will continue over the coming weeks in an attempt to resolve this encampment through outreach strategies alone.
As of April 28, this engagement has resulted in at least 30 referrals to shelter or housing for the 61 people identified as living in the encampment long term in February. These connections to shelter and housing include:
- 17 to Tiny House Villages
- 9 to Enhanced Shelter
- 1 individual relocated with a housing solution
- 2 households relocated with an Emergency Housing Voucher
- 1 individual is currently approved for Permanent Supportive Housing
- 5 people not on the by-name-list have been referred to shelter from the park
- 1 to Enhanced Shelter
- 4 to Tiny House Villages
- 10 people from the by-name-list have voluntarily relocated from the park
Planning efforts at Woodland Park are now transitioning to focus on returning the park to its intended use. Our goal is to ensure that everyone receives an offer of shelter, and that the vast majority are connected to the best-fitting shelter and support, after which sections of the park will be temporarily closed to allow SPR to begin restoration work in the park after the removal of the encampment. This will include repairs to picnic shelters, public restrooms, and vegetation.
Article Source: News from City of Seattle