Seattle City Council considers freezing encampment sweeps during pandemic

SEATTLE — The sweep of homeless camps is in danger of stopping altogether.

Three Seattle City Councilmembers want to keep the city from spending the money during COVID-19.

That's not sitting well with those who face the eyesores daily.

Seattle police responded several times to the homeless encampment at 12th and South Weller Street in just the hour KIRO 7 was there, surrounded by mounds of trash, many filled with discarded needles.

In fact, needles seem to be just about everywhere. And business owners say there's much more.

"There's feces, bottles of urine in there," said Curtis Marr, owner of CMarr Automotive. "That I've got to walk past and smell all day long."

Marr's repair shop is right across from the encampment. He has watched it grow more dangerous during the pandemic.

"It's me, my customers and all the people around in the neighborhood that work here have to deal with the safety concerns," said Marr. "There's been shootings."

Emotions boiled over outside the encampment even as KIRO 7's cameras rolled; three men in a shouting and shoving match for all to see.

Indeed, city officials released some sobering statistics about this encampment: there has been a homicide, stabbings, assaults and gunfire. Just a few blocks away on under I-5, there have been several fires, too.

And it is driving business away.

"If COVID ever gets over, we can't open for business with these people around here and injecting themselves on our stairs," said Laurie MacPherson, owner of MacPherson Leather Company, across from the encampment. "People won't get out of their cars."

Now legislation co-sponsored by Seattle City Councilmember Tammy Morales who represents this district would cut off funding to four city departments, including Seattle police.

It is meant to prevent removal of the encampments except if they pose 'a health, safety or fire hazard' to inhabitants or neighbors. No mention, however, of general public safety.

"I feel if they would come by here and visit this mess, they would change," said Marr. "They would have a different sight on what they're doing."

The neighbors say city's homeless navigation team will clear out the encampment this week.

The neighbors here they worry that this will go someplace else and another neighborhood will find themselves n the same condition they have been in for weeks.