Last month the City of Seattle forced the cancellation of events by abdicating control of local parks to homeless campers. Now they plan to make homelessness near the park permanent by constructing supportive housing nearby.
A large commercial-residential project located at 4905 Aurora Ave., on the outskirts of Woodland Park was canceled and the property sold to the Department of Emergency Services (DESC) to be used as a long-term residential shelter. The location of the project is next to an area of the park that has been taken over by campers and those living in RVs who have been blamed for spiking crime including thefts and assaults in the park.
DESC has been heavily criticized for failing to address the root causes of homelessness including, mental health, substance abuse and addiction. The area surrounding their facilities in downtown Seattle have been magnets for crime and is a frequent location for calls for the Seattle Police Department. A video obtained by The Post Millennial shows the horrid living conditions inside the building itself.
Last month, Clint James Jory, 35, was booked into King County Jail for the attempted rape of an employee at the King County Courthouse. According to the Burien Voice, Jory was convicted of indecent liberties two years ago and is a prolific offender who was arrested in 2019 for burglary while living in a DESC facility. DESC was called out in the KOMO News Documentary Fighting for the Soul of Seattle for their approach to mental health.
DESC operates "low barrier" to entry shelters, where drugs and other substances are allowed and crime runs rampant. The failed model is still being replicated even after the high profile closure of the Lichton Springs low barrier encampment operated by the Low Income Housing Institute closed in 2019, after ongoing crime regularly affected neighbors and business for years since the day the encampment opened.
The new DESC facility next to Woodlawn Park is set to have 95 studio units for the chronically homeless. The community was given no notice of the project and the location is doors away from a local daycare as well as senior housing complexes. Many residents of the encampment at Broadview-Thompson K-8 and elsewhere across the city have housing at various shelters and supportive housing, but choose to keep tents and RVs in parks and neighborhoods as locations for drug dealing and prostitution.
City Council President and mayoral candidate Lorena Gonzalez recently hosted a walk through of the park, which turned contentious when residents showed up to challenge her on what would be done to solve the problems with the homeless which have exploded under her tenure on the council.
During the meeting, Gonzalez finally admitted a long-known truth for taxpayers in the city that the services and resources the city provides are a draw for addicts and homeless across the country to come to Seattle. "…we know that many people come from outside of the city of Seattle, because we offer so many services here, and because so many other cities in the suburbs have chosen not to provide services."
Meanwhile, Lower Woodland Park is now off limits for running competitions and events because of the homeless encampments that have spread across the grounds like many other parks in the city, which officials have refused to remove. Residents and park visitors are concerned the DESC facility will only cement the dangers in the park.
Every year, thousands of runners from seven-year-olds through masters' level races use the city park for training and competition. According to KOMO News, "The city has denied permits for leagues to host meets at Lower Woodland, on the south end of Green Lake, and the ban will likely last the season."
Corey Batten, one of the head coaches for the Rain City Flyers, told KOMO News: "They're not issuing any permits for usage there." According to the outlet, the parks department and mayor's office said the permits were denied "due to concerns around the current conditions at Woodland Park, including reports from our grounds crews of encampments blocking some trails." Batten added, "I think it's just a safety issue and they didn't want to have any conflicts."
Ed Balet, a parent of local runners, told KOMO: "The drugs, the prostitution, the human waste - all that is in our city parks that we are spending money to maintain, and I think the balance is gone."
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