School board members ask city of Seattle not to clear homeless camps on school property

SEATTLE — Parents are feeling increasingly frustrated over two homeless encampments near Seattle schools.

Some campers are actually on school property. With some students back in class this week, parents are worried about their kids’ safety.

“I just think it’s a recipe for disaster,” said Serena Evans, a parent. She’s the guardian for her nephew, who attends Broadview-Thomson Elementary in Seattle’s Bitter Lake neighborhood.

Parents in the area say people started camping behind the school’s playground last summer, but now the group has swelled to more than 50 tents. They recently sent a letter to the district and city, asking for help.

“I knew it had gotten bad but I didn’t realize how out of control it was,” Evans said. “To have my daughter running around - not to pass judgment but usually with homeless encampments, there are drugs which means needles,” she said.

Evans said she’s seen drug deals and fights. Parents say the school has now hired a security guard and locked a gate behind the playground. However, the gate also blocks one of the two walking paths to the school.

“I get it, homelessness is out of control. But now it’s crossing the line with our kids,” Evans said.

Parents with kids at Meany Middle School right next to Miller Park have similar frustrations.

Some of the campers are on school property, in the lawn and around a sports field.

KIRO7′s Deedee Sun asked Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan about the parents’ concerns.

“We all have seen an increase in homelessness during the pandemic. The CDC said we had to leave people in place and it’s having significant impacts on communities,” Durkan said.

She said the city has been doing outreach for weeks at Miller Park.

“To move people out of the park into somewhere safe and to clean up the park. We’ve been working with the school district on as you know - their property. They have a responsibility for working on it and we’ve been trying to give them some of our assistance,” Durkan said.

Multiple Seattle School Board members, including board president Hampson and School Board Chair of Operations Committee Zachary DeWolf shared a statement on Facebook saying in part:

“Our students deserve to see the adults in their lives behave compassionately… we demand sweeps never be used on school grounds, adjacent or elsewhere in this City.”

Evans says she also wants those unsheltered to be treated with compassion, but what is currently happening isn’t that.

“Let’s see what we can do for them,” Evans said. “This isn’t benefiting the kids and this isn’t benefiting the people living there. The people who are homeless are not getting treatment,” she said.

“We’ve got to keep the kids safe. And this just isn’t safe,” she said.

Middle school welcomes more students back in less than two weeks on April 19.

The school district says it’s working with the city but currently has no timeline on when campers might get help -- or be cleared out.

Seattle Public Schools shared this statement:

“We are working in partnership with the City of Seattle to support community members residing at the encampment near Meany Middle School. SPS will be identifying the area of the encampment that is close to the school, supporting City contracted outreach partners to identify solutions to challenges, and making clear the boundaries between city property and district grounds. The pandemic has deepened inequities, including access to housing. This is not a problem with easy solutions, but we are committed to working in partnership to address it together and do so in a compassionate way. Our schools will reopen in a phased approach as planned. Middle School students enrolled in special education intensive service pathways will return next Monday, April 5. All other middle school students will return April 19.”