For the past few months, multiple neighbors and business owners like John Hensley, accused “Stop the Sweeps Seattle” of shuttling homeless people to other neighborhoods across Seattle after homeless encampment clean ups.
“They appear to think their heart is in the right place, but all they’re doing is moving a problem around,” says Hensley, co-owner of Beehive Mercantile in Ballard.
Volunteers with the group call the activity “mutual aid.” The hope to assist homeless people who refuse to take services and shelter from the city.
Like clockwork, they showed up to Tuesday morning’s encampment sweep in SODO and packed several vans with items belonging to the homeless on 3rd Avenue South and South Holgate Street.
This time, I decided to follow them. After a few minutes, a volunteer parked the van just a few blocks away and started unloading a tent and all kinds of personal belongings.
“Aren’t you just moving the homeless from one street to another? One neighborhood to another? Why don’t you put them into shelter,” I asked the volunteer, who refused to give her name. She responded, “Do you think I have that power?”
Stop the Sweeps Seattle moved this woman, who goes by Sammy, into this part of SODO for the time being. She says the shelter options being offered are inadequate, especially since pets like her cat are banned. I reminded her that the city is offering services and shelter. “Right if you meet their guidelines. But if you don’t, you don’t,” she says.
The latest move by these far-left activists just added to this growing homeless encampment on Utah Avenue South behind several businesses and near Starbucks’ corporate headquarters.
While moving people around this way is legal, the city and the King County Regional Homelessness Authority have yet to comment on what’s happening here and its potential impact on homeless outreach efforts.
I asked the volunteer with Stop the Sweeps if they were going to continue moving the homeless around all across the city. “People don’t refuse that s*** man. You can even ask the idiot deputy mayor,” she responded.
Stop the Sweeps is no fan of Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell’s administration. The group’s social media page shows the mayor with devil horns and a photo on its Facebook page targets parks employee Bill Gholston for leading the sweeps. Some mutual aid volunteers have also been accused of leaving intimidating notes on trees, which mention parks employees family members by name.
When the city announced its homelessness strategy last May, Deputy Mayor Tiffany Washington said aggressive protestors are the reason why the city does not publicly release the encampment clean up schedule.
Homeless advocate Bruce Drager argues that the controversial tactics buys the people living on the streets some extra time: “I support what mutual aid does because they’re trying to help. In fact, I would do the same thing if I had the time. But I’m too busy trying to figure out how to get people into viable housing.”