The city regularly forces homeless people sleeping on sidewalks and under freeway overpasses to move along. In some cases, a private company is paid to do that work.
The city regularly forces homeless people sleeping on sidewalks and under freeway overpasses to move along. In some cases, a private company is paid to do that work. Ansel Herz

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It was a bold move last week when advocates for unsheltered people, including the American Civil Liberties of Washington, turned down Mayor Ed Murray's invitation to join a task force on homeless encampments and instead introduced a piece of radically pro-homeless legislation. They were doing their best to circumvent the dreaded Seattle process and go straight to a city council vote instead. Today, Murray signaled that he wants to engage in more process anyway.

Earlier this month, Murray proposed a task force to review the policies that currently dictate how the city evicts homeless campers—policies that are not working. Instead of tweaking those policies, the advocates' proposal would replace them with a new law. If passed by the city council, that law would significantly limit when the city could clear encampments.

Murray was slow to respond. He told me the day after advocates released their proposal that he hadn't yet read it and wouldn't comment. His spokesperson told the Seattle Times, "There are some question marks."

Today, his office once again dodged taking a position on the advocates' proposal and announced that Murray plans to go forward with his task force to discuss the current encampment protocols. UPDATE: This evening, the mayor's administration outlined their concerns about the legislation in a letter to the city council.

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In a press release, Murray says the encampments task force will meet weekly for the next month "with legislation expected to be transmitted by the end of the month." That means the city council will have to consider both the legislation from advocates (here) and whatever proposal comes out of this task force—likely a more watered down approach.

The mayor's task force includes both homeless advocates from groups like the Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness and the Downtown Emergency Services Center and representatives from several neighborhood business groups. The group also includes a member of the Neighborhood Safety Alliance, a group that has repeatedly and loudly complained about homeless people living in RVs in neighborhoods north of the ship canal.

The task force's first meeting is tonight at 6 p.m. in City Hall's Bertha Knight Landes room.

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