Many people have expressed concerns about the problem of homelessness in Seattle Parks. Since 2017 a group of neighbors on all sides of Ravenna-Cowen Parks have been meeting with city officials to advocate for protecting the parks, and for substantive and effective assistance to the homeless. We have been working with the Seattle City Council, the Mayor’s office, SPD, and the Parks Dept.
If you are interested in helping support homeless issues, and/or if you want to help protect Ravenna Park and the neighborhood, please consider the following:
1. Report illegal encampments. Outreach workers from the city work with Parks Department staff to contact homeless encampments for litter mitigation and trash pickup and case management support for social services. To report illegal camps:
- If you have a smartphone (iphone or Android), the quickest way is to download the city’s Find It Fix It mobile app. The app lets you pinpoint the location of the enacampment site, and transmits the report directly to the team’s work pipeline. (Select category “Other” for encampment reports.)
- Otherwise, call the city at 206-684-CITY(2489) between 10-4 weekdays. Ask for the “illegal camping report line” to provide details to the Investigators.
- Even if you think the camp has already been reported by another neighbor, please consider reporting it yourself. That way we’ll be sure the camp has been reported, and you may be able to provide more information about the camp than other reports.
2. After you have reported an encampment, please report the camp AGAIN if the problem escalates. For instance, if you see open fires at the camp site, increasing trash, more tents at the same camp site, or if the camp is on a steep hillside, causing erosion risks. (Either with the mobile app or to the illegal camping line.) The homeless team will use that additional info to bump up the priority on a camp due to urgent issues.
3. See an open fire in a camp site? – You can call 911 and tell the dispatcher what you are seeing, and the dispatcher will decide on the appropriate action (e.g., fire dept. dispatch, etc.). Alternatively, you can report the open fire problem via the Find It Fix It app or to the illegal camping investigation line. This will alert the team to prioritize contact with the camp site.
4. Needle dumps? – Seattle Public Utilities guarantees a 24-hour clean-up of needle dumps. Report the site via Find It Fix It app or to the SPU Illegal Dumping Hotline, 206-684-7587.
5. Illegal trash dumping? – SPU (again) has a 24-48 hour turnaround on illegal garbage dumping pickups. Use the Find It Fix it app or call the Illegal Dumping Hotline, (206) 684-7587. – You can also call the city’s main customer service line, 206-684-CITY(2489).
6. See a crime in the park? (e.g., open campfires, someone setting up a new camp, etc.) – You can call 911 about it, rather than the “non-emergency” line (which is often busy). The 911 dispatchers are trained to take your report and determine how to get the information SPD or the homeless team. Even if the police response is delayed, please call. (See NOTE below.)
NOTE: In recent months Ravenna has had a sharp increase in reported crime, especially property crime. In the past neighbors have been troubled by noise disturbances in the park or on adjacent streets, attempted home break-ins, burglary of tools and household items from yards and alleys. CALL THE POLICE (911). Ask to have an officer contact you and report on the incident. Statistics of crime calls makes crimes visible to the police and alters patrol patterns. Property crimes – if your car is prowled or your house is burglarized… File a police report – they can be done at online. https://www.seattle.gov/police/need-help/online-reporting. This is a major way to tell our city we need law enforcement to protect public safety in our neighborhood. (Thank you for taking the time to do so.)
7. If you experience criminal behavior associated with homeless encampments – e.g., verbal assault, physical attack, verbal intimidation or threatening words-actions, property intrusions, open drug use witnessing – please call 911. It may be tempting to let it pass, but in doing so, you may be allowing others to be victimized by the same individual(s). If you feel threatened, or that your loved ones are at risk from a transient or homeless camper, tell the 911 dispatcher “I feel fearful for my safety,” or “I feel fearful for the safety of my loved ones.” This will help the dispatcher escalate the priority of the call. ALSO: Ask to be contacted by the responding officer, so that you can learn what happened as a result of the call.
8. To express your opinions on these issues, including homelessness, illegal camps in our parks, police response, or city funding allocations, email the mayor: firstname.lastname@example.org, and the City Council: email@example.com. Hearings on how to solve the homelessness problem are happening RIGHT NOW! – so email sooner rather than later.
Seeing homeless camp sites in Seattle parks and on our streets is disturbing from a human and social society perspective and from a neighborhood and park environment viewpoint. It may seem as though “nothing can be done.” By coming together as a community, we have seen significant progress in reducing both the number of camp sites and the time to reclaim park environment from an illegal camp. This is a big problem facing most West Coast cities, but we can do something about it. Tell the city it needs to be solved!
Thank you for helping to be part of the solution to this very complicated and important problem in our city and in our society.