Homeless encampment growing at Seattle public school with only weeks to go before children return to campus

Violence is spiraling out of control, drug dealers and sex workers are regulars, and nothing seems to be happening in order to have the encampment removed before the first day of school.

Ari Hoffman Seattle WA

With just a few weeks until school begins, the homeless encampment at Broadview Thompson K-8 in Seattle is growing, violence is spiraling out of control, drug dealers make regular stops to the site and sex workers work the area and nothing seems to be happening in order to have the encampment removed before the first day of school.

An email obtained from the Broadview Thompson PTA to the parent body advises parents to "Stop by the encampment and meet Mike and his team."

"Mike" is Mike Mathias, who has been tasked with dealing with the encampment by Seattle Public Schools, has an extensive criminal past as well as addiction and mental health challenges, who so far has claimed he has gotten people out of the encampment and into shelters and services while the encampment keeps growing.

The email says that Mike has "a white canopy that they use as an office, mid-camp, at the top of the embankment, although they may move closer to the ball field, so they can better monitor and discourage any attempts by new people to move in." According to the last count taken July 23, there were 79 tents, up from about 60 at the beginning of July.

According to volunteers who have spoken to the campers, a Marxist activist group in favor of enabling campers and defunding the police called Mutual Aid is sending people to Bitter Lake per "Mike's approval."

The email went on to say, "I promise, it's not as intimidating as it seems," in the same week that a neighbor provided video from the encampment of a woman in a tent screaming for help who may be the victim of assault or worse by multiple men coming and going from the tent.

The email asks for donations and then said, "SPS has installed a gate at the north end of the camp, to discourage campers from going through that neighborhood at night." Additionally, the email said, "SPS is in the process of installing a fence along the walkway leading from the park to the school playground in anticipation of being able to open the back gate before and after school in September."

One neighbor said to The Post Millennial, "Why would they need the fencing if they were not planning on making the encampment permanent? Shouldn’t they just clear the encampment?"

The neighbor, who spoke anonymously for fear of their safety said, "Clearly they are planning on making this encampment permanent and it will be there on the first day of school."

Ryle Goodrich, a parent of a student at the school said, "A fence with a gate was built to reduce traffic to the neighborhood. Mathias was given a key, but he is only around during the day."

Goodrich provided this video to The Post Millennial. "He (Mathias) gave another key to the assailant in the video."  Goodrich slammed recent puff pieces by The Seattle Times and Real Change for portraying the encampment and the alleged assailants as peaceful.

"Now the neighbors are locked out of their park, and one of the assailants has the key, deciding who comes and who goes. Seattle Public Schools is now letting a violent individual manage their property."

Goodrich added, "It's important to understand that the encampment has become a crime epicenter for the neighborhood. People show up with stolen tools from Lowes or Home Depot... People are coming and going all the time. Some of them come to the camp to beat campers and collect debt, or use drugs and mental health crises afterwards."

Goodrich called the situation, "…a failure of the SPS. these campers and the neighbors are all victims of the school board and school district."

"People broke into the school this summer. We had an intruder and 3 lockdowns or shelter in places this school year. Prostitutes, rapes, assaults, visible shooting drugs, drug dealing, lewd behavior, sexual harassment and other fights in the encampment. Neighbors have received death threats, been robbed, had trespassers, even been robbed at gunpoint."

In emails sent by neighbors and employees to The Post Millennial, Hampson and Director Zachary DeWolf demanded Mayor Jenny Durkan not allow the encampments to be removed from school grounds.

"I want to state very clearly this is not an ask for a sweep! I do not believe in sweeps. People experiencing homelessness need housing and resources not traumatic sweeps of their livelihoods and belongings. I understand that the Council has allocated and assigned a lot of funding to support our neighbors experiencing homelessness. BUT we do need some support — we are bringing students back to classrooms and school buildings/campuses in a matter of a few weeks. Do you have any ideas for how to help?"

Hampson and DeWolf published a joint statement condemning any potential removal of encampments from school property or anywhere else in the city "We demand sweeps NEVER be performed on school grounds, adjacent or elsewhere in this City."

Meanwhile, SPS superintendent Denise Juneau admitted in an email to neighbors obtained by The Post Millennial that "We realize people living unsheltered in encampments can create health and safety hazards for their occupants and the general public."

When a group of parents, employees and neighbors greeted students and their parents for their first day back in April and handed out flyers describing the situation with the encampments and inaction of school officials, Hampson responded by threatening the group with trespassing, even as she demanded the campers remain on school grounds.

"I hope you stayed on public sidewalks while handing out flyers? That wouldn’t be allowed on school grounds per policy 4200. To be clear Policies are the purview of the Board while anything with an SP is the purview of the Superintendent and their designees. 4200 and SP also give the right for a hearing for those officially trespassed."


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