Children Returning to School are Greeted by Homeless Encampments
Students who finally returned to in person learning at Seattle Public Schools on Monday for the first time in over a year found homeless encampments waiting for them on two of the district’s campuses.
This comes just two years after state officials debated legislation that would prohibit homeless encampments from being within 1,000 feet from a school.
Neighbors have shown photos of King County needle exchange vans near the encampments, as well as dead rats tied to sticks.
The encampments are located at Broadview Thomson K-8, on Greenwood Ave., and Edmond S. Meany Middle School, on 21st Ave. Neighbors attribute area crime, trash, waste, and needles to the encampments. Seattle Public School officials have refused to address the situation, according to neighbors and parents. Some school board members have even demanded that the encampments stay on the school properties.
City officials and school board members have declined to meet with the group of neighbors, parents, and employees who want to address the situation. According to emails that the parents sent to news outlets, Seattle School Board President Chandra Hampson and Director Zachary DeWolf demanded Mayor Jenny Durkan not allow the encampments to be removed from school grounds.
“I want to state very clearly this is not an ask for a sweep! I do not believe in sweeps. People experiencing homelessness need housing and resources not traumatic sweeps of their livelihoods and belongings. I understand that the Council has allocated and assigned a lot of funding to support our neighbors experiencing homelessness. BUT we do need some support — we are bringing students back to classrooms and school buildings/campuses in a matter of a few weeks. Do you have any ideas for how to help?” one parent asked in an email.
Hampson and DeWolf published a joint statement condemning any potential removal of encampments from school property or anywhere else in the city “We demand sweeps NEVER be performed on school grounds, adjacent or elsewhere in this City.”Meanwhile, SPS superintendent Denise Juneau admitted in an email to neighbors that “We realize people living unsheltered in encampments can create health and safety hazards for their occupants and the general public.”Hampson even attempted to deny that the encampment was located on school campuses, even though city websites clearly show the property owned by Seattle Public Schools.
At Broadview, SPS has opted to provide on campus security for the school instead of removing the encampment. In June of 2020, Seattle Public Schools officially suspended their partnership with the Seattle Police Department for at least one year following the death of George Floyd. The campers arrived and have been on campus since July.
According to neighbors, a woman died of an overdose at the encampment at Broadview in February and her body lay in the street for hours.
The encampments have grown to over 40 tents each, and the encampment at Broadview Thompson is located on a protected environmental area next to a lake, which residents say the campers are polluting.
Ryle Goodrich, whose 6-year-old son was scheduled to return to one of the schools Monday for in-person learning for the first time in over a year told KOMO News, “You question the judgment of those in charge of keeping your children safe. I am calling on the school board to allow Mayor Jenny Durkan to take care of these encampments as she has in the past, which would be to offer services and then guide campers out of the park and let children return to school.”
Goodrich added that he is looking to pull his children from the school. “I know a lot of parents who wanted to send their children back to school but are unwilling to because they don’t feel safe. We are house shopping already – out of Seattle.”