SEATTLE (CBS13) — Sacramento is seeking Seattle’s help with the homeless as councilmembers, city attorneys and Sacramento Police officers will see how it is dealing with its own homeless crisis.
One of Seattle’s solutions has been to set up homeless encampments inside its own city boundaries.
Underneath the gray Seattle skies where the cranes are putting up new big buildings, the rush-hour drive south on Interstate 99 may not show it. But step onto the streets and like many cities you will quickly see that Seattle’s homeless numbers are at an all-time high.
One official count shows Seattle’s homeless population has grown by hundreds in the past year sparking the city to respond in a whole new way and in places you might not suspect.
Ryan Miller and his cat Zelda live at Unit 14 in a tiny village encampment. He moved to Seattle from North Dakota seeking a better life. Before coming here, he says he slept on the streets, even while working as a clerk at 7-Eleven.
“It was really tough for me; how did you even do it did you sleep? Sometimes, for the first couple days, I was afraid to sleep,” he said.
Here, he works as a security guard, be he hopes to be gone in a few months and with a new job and permanent home.
Case managers are part of the support network at the city-sanctioned encampments.
“If you really want to get out of homelessness and you really want to do something with your life, this is a great method to do it,” he said. “Especially with case management, they are just vicious they are out to get you out.”
There are now four city-sanctioned homeless encampments in Seattle with two more on the way. They provide shelter, bathrooms and food.
Seattle’s City Council passed an ordinance allowing the encampments 12-month contracts in residential, commercial, and industrial neighborhoods.
Lynne Behar works for Seattle’s low-income housing institute.
“A tent city is an encampment. an encampment is also a safe car lot. an encampment is also a tiny house village where there are no tents,” she said.
The policy requires the encampments have at least a 25-foot setback from residentially zoned lots, be at least 5,000 feet in area, and have at least 100 square feet per occupant.
Homeless advocates declare the plan has drawn widespread support.
Solomon Douglas lives on the same street as the new tiny village homeless encampment. He’s not worried about his neighbors.
“Anyone who’s taking that kind of initiative to improve their lives I think it’s great to have them around,” he said.
There has been some neighborhood opposition.
At Seattle City Hall, they declared a homeless state of emergency, putting in $7.5 million to help pay for the temporary shelters.
“Homelessness is not going to disappear off the face of american cities unless working people and the 99 percent fight to end homelessness,” said Seattle City Councilwoman Kshama Sawant.
Seattle is now fighting its homeless problem in a new way. No hiding the homeless—instead it’s attracting attention from everywhere.