Seattle City Council on Eve of Homeless Sweeps: We Should Have Listened to Tent City Tenants, ‘That was Our Mistake’

Seattle City Council on Eve of Homeless Sweeps: We Should Have Listened to Tent City Tenants, ‘That was Our Mistake’

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Photo: Margo Vansynghel
Photo: Margo Vansynghel

On Monday March, approximately 20 current residents of the Field of Dreams (located on Airport Way South and South Royal Brougham Way) visited the Seattle City Council to urge Seattle’s local elected officials to stop the sweep of their tent homes scheduled for Tuesday, March 7.

They were joined by approximately 75 advocates from community groups, including Stop the Sweeps, The Neighborhood Action Coalition, Catholic Community Services, Recover the World, Tent City Collective, Freedom Hill and Common Cents, Seattle Food Not Bombs, and Black Action Network to make statements with the tent community, Our Field of Dreams.

City Council heard testimony from the residents of the field regarding their many attempts to navigate the city’s unresponsive or unhelpful listed services and their efforts in vain to relocate to shelter space.

Councilmembers cited the unsanitary conditions of the field as the reason for the sweep, but the response of residents was that they had alerted the council to these very problems months prior and now they feel that they are being punished for the city’s negligence.

Reavy Washington of Our Field of Dreams said: “I told you about these problems months ago and you said ‘no’ you wouldn’t help, and I’m [we’re] being punished for your ‘no.’”

Councilmember Lorena Gonzalez responded: “You’re right. That was our mistake”.

Photo: Margo Vansynghel
Photo: Margo Vansynghel

Shortly thereafter, the majority of Seattle City Council, including Mike O’Brien, Kshama Sawant, Rob Johnson, and Deborah Juarez, agreed to sign on to the letter to oppose the sweep on March 7 and allow time to negotiate a community-based solution.

After the city council meeting, the group of residents and advocates went to Mayor Ed Murray’s office and waited for two hours to speak with a representative.

At 4:30 p.m., George Scarola “Seattle’s New Homeless Tzar” met with the group outside the mayor’s office and promised to pass on the message of the residents’ to the mayor later that evening.

“We await news of their conversation regarding the Mayor’s decision to act in accord with the Council [and in accord with the residents] on delaying the sweep and allowing them the opportunity and support to work to improve their own living conditions,” a statement read.

“We want you to see that we’re making a real intent to clean up the space. I asked for fire extinguishers, I asked for clean up materials, and we have a proposal here to share with the Mayor on how we can make our field better. The Mayor doesn’t live there. We do. The Mayor lives in his mansion. He should let us take care of our own home,” said Washington.

Residents and advocates anxiously await the Mayor’s decision as to whether the belongings of the houseless community will be taken during a sweep in the morning, or if more time will be given for community solutions and dialogue – in which many groups say they are willing to participate.

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