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Inslee visits Ship Canal Encampment to Appease Parents as Protest for Public Safety is Announced

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On Wednesday, Washington State Governor Jay Inslee made several stops around King County. But Inslee’s last stop in Seattle’s Wallingford neighborhood was unexpected.

For months, parents and leaders at Wallingford’s John Stanford International School have pleaded for action to be taken about the notorious Ship Canal Bridge homeless encampment right across the street from their school. Shootings, fires, and even several deaths have taken place at the encampment.

Elected officials have been silent in response to the parents’ pleas, but on Wednesday, Governor Inslee met up with frustrated parents at John Stanford International School.

Gathered near the school, Inslee assured parents that his team is “doing everything we can to find solutions” for the dangerous encampment.

When pressed for an exact timeline to clear the encampment, Inslee responded that “we have some plans in a reasonable time period to insist that they leave this encampment.”

The reason behind Inslee’s impromptu Wallingford appearance is unclear, but it came on the heels of parents announcing an upcoming rally near the encampment. Their goal is to bring needed attention to concerns for their children’s safety.

I asked Governor Inslee if he regrets that the situation has reached the point where a protest is in order. “All of us, all of us, want to solve the homelessness problem,” Inslee emphasizes, “we’ve got to find solutions for everybody.”

Parent Ashley Cappel describes the upcoming protest as, “a demonstration of our unity as a community” and stresses that, “advocating for our children is not advocating against the unsheltered.”

One of the protest organizers, Eli Hosher, says the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) and the King County Regional Homelessness Authority failed to do their jobs, and “the issues of safety and crime need to be addressed.”

Hosher has called on Mayor Bruce Harrell to step up and take control.

While parents appreciate that Inslee finally acknowledged their concerns, Hosher tells me that the protest is still on. The parents will not back down until the encampment is cleared.  

In half-jest, one of the parents, James Sabbatini, tells the group that he’s “found Brian Nielsen’s house.” Brian Nielsen, a WSDOT leader, sent emails to the parents in an attempt to appease their concerns. Instead, the messages came across as tone-deaf to the situation.

If Nielsen “wants to find them permanent housing,” Sabbatini says it might be time to bus the homeless to Nielsen’s backyard.

The parents chuckle in agreement. After months of being ignored, you can’t blame them for thinking that officials will only “stop passing the buck as soon as you put it in their neighborhood.”

Jonathan Choe interviews Governor Inslee