Seattle business owners fed up with problems stemming from homeless crisis

SEATTLE — In a heated meeting with city officials Monday night, business owners in Seattle said they want answers, worried about what's next after years of battling problems stemming from the city’s homeless crisis.

Some businesses owners say they may not be able to stay open much longer if something doesn't change.

Even people with historic businesses like Uwajimaya spoke about how much of a toll the homeless crisis is taking on employees who simply don't feel safe because of the disturbing behavior they see in the neighborhood.

Business owners from across the city expressed similar concerns when they confronted city officials.

Imiun Liu owns several businesses in Seattle such as the Eastern Café in the International District, where he says crimes involving the homeless are so common that he and other business owners can’t help but feel defeated by the RVs and tents surrounding their stores.

“We've all given up on calling 911. Nobody even thinks that the police will ever show up or do anything, and even if they do actually catch somebody, we know they're going to come back the next day,” said Liu.

“Our neighborhoods are in crisis,” said Lisa Howard with the Alliance for Pioneer Square.

Business owners told city officials once again that they are tired of losing money, employees and their sense of safety.

“Our employees walk over needles, trash, human waste,” said Denise Merle with Weyerhaeuser.

“(It’s) the third consecutive day that my employee got her tip jar stolen with no response from the police. She got fed up and chased the guy down the street herself and was assaulted,” said Lois Ko, owner of Sweet Alchemy.

“Seattle Deputy Mayor Michael Fong admitted there’s a need to get more eyes on the streets and that next year’s budget includes money for 40 additional police officers.

“I also hear loud and clear, we need to be action-oriented and we need to start delivering,” said Fong.

Seattle police leaders said officers can do more when people call 911, but many business owners feel like their concerns weren't answered.

“All they do is come out and make their talking points because they're trying to get reelected,” said Liu.

The meeting was not Liu’s first and for many business owners in Seattle, it won’t be the last. They say they are tired of the promises and are hoping the city does something so their doors can stay open.

“We don’t really care about all the talk anymore. If there's results that's great. If not, we have work to do. And I’m going back to work myself,” said Liu.

The mayor's office admitted it has yet to get to the root of this problem and currently it's all about strategizing the best way to move forward.

So far, that means putting more resources into programs like the Navigation Team and the Community Resource Officer program.