UPDATE: White Center's Triangle Pub owner asserts homeless encampment is hurting his business
Update Friday Feb. 18
Westside Seattle reached out to other local business owners, Seattle City Council President Lorena Gonzalez and District 1 City Councilmember Lisa Herbold and she provided this information:
“Here is what the City Departments send when people ask for encampment removals:
In alignment with CDC public health guidelines to reduce the spread of COVID-19, starting in March, the City suspended the removals of encampments except for extreme circumstances that pose significant risks to the public. To support the City and County's COVID-19 efforts, the Human Services Department, in partnership with Seattle Parks and Recreation and Seattle Public Utilities, changed operations to focus primarily on outreach, distribution of hygiene kits and information, and litter and debris mitigation. As more housing and shelter spaces become available in 2021, we anticipate being able to move more people indoors, and to do so in a way that does not further the spread of COVID-19.
As part of the recently approved 2021 budget, the City is updating its encampment outreach response from the Navigation Team to the Homelessness Outreach and Provider Ecosystem (HOPE) Team. This new eight-person HSD-led Team is now coordinating with the City's contracted outreach teams and City departments to engage with people experiencing homelessness and connect them with services, including shelter and housing as available, and address the impacts from encampments.
Additionally, City Departments are working together to enhance trash and litter removal across the City, including encampments, through its new Clean Cities Initiative.
For more information on the City's efforts to expand shelter, hygiene, and outreach to individuals experiencing homelessness, please visit the Homelessness Response Blog.
If you need further assistance in this matter, please contact the City’s Homelessness Response Team at email@example.com.
We appreciate your support during this time of community need.
City of Seattle
Customer Service Bureau
Herbold explained, “You can file a complaint here and they might send someone to evaluate to determine whether it fulfills the “extreme circumstances that pose significant risked” standard necessary to pursue a removal."
In a conversation Westside Seattle had with City Council President and Mayoral candidate Lorena Gonzalez, she said, “It’s definitely a challenge. We’ve got to do lots of outreach and lots of engagement and we also have to increase our shelter supply and our permanent supportive housing supply and where we can shift people. Right now we have the Regional Homeless Authority, getting stood up. It’s a long term strategy but I think it’s going to help with this issue and increase our capacity across the county in terms of where we can house and shelter people.”
Gonzelez said that last year she supported a significant increase in “tiny house” villages and that they have a 98% transfer rate from tiny house villages to permanent housing.
“In the meantime we’ve got to deal with the livability impacts and the public health impacts of these encampments.”
“We’ve got to reach out to the HOPE team. We’ve got to go down there and pay them a visit.”
McElroy did in fact file a complaint almost two weeks ago. Additionally he said that the Triangle Pub “contacted the city and took the number to all the business owners on Delridge Way from Roxbury to Cambridge. Everyone called and was transferred to a voice mail ensuring we would be gotten back to within 24 hours. No one has reached out to us.”
Since he made that comment, the city did show up with two trucks and some dumpsters and were seen, according to the business owners, doing some minimal clean up and left the dumpsters there. There’s little evidence they say that the dumpsters are now being used. Garbage is again all over the street. This is not a large encampment. It's comprised of some seven tents as of Feb. 20.
In comments on social media this encampment, like others, was portrayed as being composed of a pitiful group of people with no other options. If that’s true then the city has the resources and staff to help them. McElroy continued, “I have not been contacted by the city. I talked to my wife about talking to the people across the street and we came to the conclusion that it would only put me/the Triangle at risk. I think the real story is who benefits from the policies that allow for this social phenomenon to not only survive, but to thrive. I’m not a reporter of any sort. Just a guy who has become increasingly confused by what is happening to our city and more recently to my community.”
Doug Stevens who owns Center Tool Rental and has been there for 48 years said he’s never seen anything like this and that everyone who comes into the shop makes a remark about it.
He’s aware that there has been crime associated with the camp presence too, with some surveillance footage showing it. Lee’s Produce owner Christine Nasatka confirmed this. ‘They have stolen stuff from me numerous times. I even give them stuff but they still steal from me. Plus all the garbage, needles and feces on my sidewalk. It’s just terrible.”
She said that some of the people are ok, “When they aren’t high. But once they shoot up they become totally different kinds of people.”
She’s angry too about people that are sympathetic for homeless people camped out in a business district who don’t have to live with the negativity of the encampment resident’s behavior. “It really makes me mad that people think we should just tolerate it. They don’t have to put up with it right outside their door.”
This issue has been a problem before, notably for the businesses on Capitol Hill in Seattle last summer. When the now infamous CHOP area took form, it severely impacted local business owners to the point that they filed a class action lawsuit against the city. That suit is still pending. But simply removing homeless people from public land is in itself an issue.
One homeless woman, Ada Yeager, was just awarded at $10,000 settlement with the city for being forcibly removed from Cal Anderson Park.Yeager’s attorney’s claims stated in part that being forced to leave violated her civil rights through “warrantless seizure and destruction of personal property." The U.S.District Court judge denied her request for a restraining order to halt the removal of the tents there. Yeager now lives in a tiny home.
Original Post 2/16/21
Editor's note: The headline for this story has been updated in response to commentary and suggestions from readers.
Geoff "Mac" McElroy has owned and operated the Triangle Pub at the edge of the Seattle city limits since 2006. He's had both good and bad times, but he's been supported by loyal customers, members of the White Center community. He's run for office, and been a community activist during that time, regularly coming forward to support local events, and help bind the community together. Now a recent development is hurting his business so severely he's questioning his commitment.
A homeless encampment has set up across the street from the pub on Delridge Way SW. Garbage is strewn in the street, open fires are set, and a steady stream of people stop by at least one of the tents, according to McElroy, pausing briefly then quickly leaving.
McElroy said, "I have operated my business for more than 15 years and been and active participant in helping White Center be a community that is welcoming and inclusive. The pandemic has definitely made maintaining a profitable business significantly more challenging. In spite of these challenges, Mac’s Triangle Pub has been able to maintain a positive presence in the community. For the first three months of being closed down we provided food for anyone in the community that needed a hot meal, free of charge. Now that the Governor has allowed us to be open on a limited basis, we are doing our best to rebuild our business. The arrival of our new neighbors across the street has cast a pall on our prospects for a comeback. Our customers are reticent to pass by the homeless encampment with the associated trash and constant coming and going of people into and out of the tents that have taken over the west sidewalk along Delridge directly across from the Pub."
He's seen the King County Sheriff deputies stop by more than once and the Seattle Police Department does drive by and stop on occasion. But the problem looks likely to stay, much as it has around many other areas in the city from Ballard to downtown. With the suspension of the "Navigation Team" by the Seattle City Council whose mission was to clear out homeless encampments on city streets and elsewhere, the issue has been put in kind of limbo.
Seattle Police Precinct Commander Captain Kevin Grossman said, "The city council has made it very clear that homelessness and related issues, like substance abuse and mental illness, are best addressed through strategies other than law enforcement and by entities other than police. I agree. The police are not designed, trained, no equipped to deal with such huge societal issues. I eagerly await the development of better ways to solve these intractable problems and of ameliorating so much human suffering, but until those new programs are implemented, Seattle’s Human Service Department and its contacted providers are doing everything they can—a job that is complicated by the pandemic."
With his business down by 40% from the last "re-opening" in June this issue is making it all that much harder to keep going.
The Seattle Council has got to go. I do not understand why they were even voted into the council. They are all a bunch of idiots.