American News Nov 30, 2021 4:55 PM EST

City officials tell volunteers to stop helping Seattle's homeless

Andrea Suarez of the grassroots organization We Heart Seattle was told, "Stop helping homeless people. Stop picking up garbage in our parks," because it was "disruptive."

City officials tell volunteers to stop helping Seattle's homeless
Ari Hoffman Seattle, WA

A team of Seattle neighbors who were tired of inaction by local politicians and government funded agencies has cleaned up over 400,000 pounds of garbage from area homeless encampments and found dozens of residents resources to stop living on the streets. They were then told by the city to stop their activities, with many speculating because they were demonstrating the city’s gross incompetence.

In October, during a Zoom meeting with Seattle City Councilmember Dan Strauss and other city leaders, Andrea Suarez of the grassroots organization We Heart Seattle was told, "Stop helping homeless people. Stop picking up garbage in our parks," because it was "disruptive."

Suarez even introduced a homeless man, who told Seattle leaders that the organization had his permission to clean up around his former encampment. Strauss and other officials according to Suarez still said "no," that the organization was violating the Multi-Department Rules requiring 90 days of storing belongings before destroying it.

The most recent example of We Heart Seattle succeeding where the city failed is Charles Woodward. Woodward set up an encampment in a residential neighborhood which included multiple vehicles thousands of pounds of wood and scrap metal and dozens of lawn mowers causing neighbors to nickname him the "lawnmower man."

Neighbors pleaded for help. Woodward blasted loud music at night, ran generators at all hours and threatened anyone who confronted him. Some residents even offered to buy his stuff, gave him quieter generators and even provide him with a job but to no avail.

The situation got so bad that someone even came by and shattered Woodward’s van window.

Through We Heart Seattle’s efforts, over two weekends Woodward’s belongings were sold or hauled away as junk. Woodward now has temporary employment and has found suitable housing while trying to start a landscaping business.

In an interview on The Ari Hoffman Show Tracy Belair, a member of We Heart Seattle, said she was able to connect with Woodward because of her previous experience having been homeless and that the city could not help her in her time of need. That connection creating a bond that enabled Woodward to trust the volunteers and change his lifestyle.

Belair told Hoffman that the reason she thinks the city is not willing to solve the homeless problem is because of the money being spent on the problem with no results.

"Shame on them," Belair said. "I think they (city officials) are in fear of money and donations going elsewhere, to people that actually have a solution and repeating it over and over again and have results."

The region is spending billions of dollars on various organizations, programs, tiny homes, hotels, and more and yet the amount of people living on the streets continues to grow and the problem continues to get worse.

Strauss and other city officials could solve the problem by working with groups like We Heart Seattle but would rather demonize them and prevent them from rescuing people from a life of poverty.

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