Mayor Ed Murray today transmitted a resolution to City Council outlining next steps in addressing the public safety needs of the people experiencing homelessness as well as infrastructure needs in the Interstate 5, East Duwamish Greenbelt (Greenbelt) area. Beginning with the initial assessment in February, the City, County and State have worked in concert on issues related to homelessness and infrastructure in the area, where some of the most extreme public health and safety risks exist.
“As I witnessed first-hand, our outreach teams have made extraordinary efforts to help those living under the freeway find shelter and needed services,” said Mayor Murray. “It is now time for Council to authorize us to proceed with addressing the outstanding public safety and health concerns present in the area.”
Outreach workers have contacted 357 people between 5-10 times each over these last three months, with each individual being offered shelter and services. Seventy residents accepted offers of shelter, services, and relocation assistance into sanctioned encampments or entry into recovery programs. According to the Union Gospel Mission, roughly 90 percent of the estimated 100 remaining residents in the Greenbelt struggle with severe mental health and substance abuse disorders and are considered one of the most vulnerable homeless populations in Seattle.
The resolution states that initial outreach efforts have been completed and that the City and state should proceed with an operations plan to refurbish an access road, clear debris and trash, and conduct overdue maintenance and inspections on I-5. In anticipation of the displacement of the remaining residents, the City and state have worked together to establish a transitional encampment site for those who have not accepted alternatives for shelter or services. The site includes harm reduction measures such as portable toilets, dumpsters, and combined outreach efforts. It is slated to operate ahead of the Navigation Center, a low-barrier, harm reduction shelter model that allows pets, couples and individuals who are currently struggling with addiction and provides 24/7 access addressing many of the concerns presented by individuals who typically refuse shelter. The Navigation Center is scheduled to open by the end of the year.
In June of 2016, City Council and the Mayor agreed on a resolution calling for comprehensive and intensive outreach to people living in the Greenbelt encampment area prior to any improvements to the physical environment occurring. These efforts included offers of shelter and services to those living in the Greenbelt. The Seattle Human Services Department has verified that outreach workers from the Union Gospel Mission took all of the appropriate steps to address the critical needs of individuals living in the Greenbelt by providing intensive outreach consistent with United States Interagency Council on Homelessness standards and connected people to low-barrier pathways to permanent housing.
The operational plan calls for continued outreach to Greenbelt residents along with maintenance improvements including the removal of brush, debris and human waste, repairing freeway and storm water infrastructure, and restoring access roads for emergency responders and WSDOT crews. Those remaining in impacted areas will be notified in advance of construction and will be asked to relocate. UGM outreach teams will increase their outreach efforts to the Greenbelt continuing to extend offers of housing, shelter, and services including space at the transitional site located at S. Royal Brougham and Air Way South.