King County Councilmember Reagan Dunn on Tuesday introduced legislation to clean up a large homeless encampment along the Green River in an unincorporated area between Auburn and Kent that has drawn complaints from nearby neighbors for multiple years.
King County Councilmember Reagan Dunn on Tuesday introduced legislation to clean up a large homeless encampment along the Green River in an unincorporated area between Auburn and Kent that has drawn complaints from nearby neighbors for multiple years. This clearing would serve as a pilot project for how King County government can remove various encampments in rural areas going forward.
“The conditions we are seeing at the Green River encampment are deplorable and inhumane — littered with human feces, infested with pests, and filled with stolen goods,” Dunn said. “This is no way for anyone to live, and certainly not fair to the surrounding community that deserves a neighborhood that is safe and clean. To make progress, we must start setting boundaries on what is acceptable, address the root causes of homelessness head on and get folks into shelters and into treatment. This legislation gives us the opportunity to learn the best way to do that.”
King County’s 2020 Point in Time Count found that 64% of people who are chronically homeless report battling a substance use disorder and 73% of King County’s chronically homeless population reported battling a mental illness.
Currently, King County does not clear homeless encampments on County property or elsewhere and has no procedures in place for doing so. This legislation would create an interagency taskforce including at minimum the Department of Community and Health Services, the Local Services’ Roads Division, and the Sheriff’s Office, working in collaboration with the King County Regional Homelessness Authority. The taskforce would be charged with designing a method of response to current and future encampments that includes procedures for cleaning up the sites and connecting the homeless residents with shelter and services.
Dunn proposed the Green River site as a pilot project because of its size and longevity. Not only is it the largest encampment in unincorporated King County, but has drawn complaints from the surrounding community for over three years.
Dunn toured the Green River encampment Tuesday and witnessed massive piles of trash as well as human waste along a stream that pours into the Green River, creating concerns of contamination. In addition, dozens of vehicles were accumulated at the side of the road in what appears to be a chop shop operation, and $130,000 worth of equipment was found that had been stolen late last year from a local youth soccer team that kept the equipment at a nearby ballfield.
Conditions at homeless encampments have recently been shown to be dangerous, with three fatal shootings occurring at various camp locations last week.
Dunn’s legislation will be heard in the Law, Justice, Health and Human Services Committee in the coming weeks.