On proposed encampment rules
Comments on the proposed Administrative Rules Re: Unauthorized Encampments
By Rev. Rick Reynolds, Executive Director, Operation Nightwatch
Operation Nightwatch serves 140 to 160 homeless individuals every night of the year. Often there are no shelter beds available for the people who come seeking help. For more than 20 years Operation Nightwatch simply assisted homeless people with accessing shelter. But circumstances have forced us to use private donations to expand the existing shelter system through contracting with third party providers, adding to the number of shelter beds available each night in Seattle.
Despite adding 75 mats for men (Compass Center at FASC), 25 sober mats for men (Bread of Life Mission) and 30 mats for women (Salvation Army, at Seattle First Covenant Church), Nightwatch continues to turn homeless people away from shelter between 9:00 pm and midnight. On January 10, 2008, after the proposed rules were issued by the City, eleven men were turned away because no shelter was available, on a night when the severe weather shelters were open and also full.
Our interest in these administrative rules goes beyond the definitions, processes, and prohibitions that outline civil behavior for city workers, city government, and homeless people themselves. We find nothing in these regulations that outline what IS allowable for people who find themselves with no housing or shelter for a night. May they sleep on the sidewalk? Can they bundle up at a bus stop? What advice can we give to those simply trying to survive tonight outside?
These issues must be addressed. The city currently funds severe weather shelters at the Frye Apartments, City Hall, and in extremely harsh weather, at the Seattle Center. These are night-to-night shelters, serving 100 to 200 people. How does the City advise these people on the nights those shelters are not open? What guidance does the City give its shelter contractors? What guidance can the City give other privately funded organizations like Operation Nightwatch, Union Gospel Mission, Bread of Life Mission, CityTeam Ministries, and other shelters turning people away every night?
Operation Nightwatch applauds the efforts to end homelessness. Can’t we figure out short term and intermediate steps for people who are homeless now? At midnight tonight we can’t tell some homeless day-laborer that affordable housing is coming in 2011.
Labels: homeless Seattle Nightwatch