It’s been a while since I checked in on Seattle homeless situation and it appears the situation has become worse than ever. Yesterday Seattle Times columnist Danny Westneat wrote about a growing camp that popped up in a park just feet away from a children’s playground.

Starting in the summer, about 15 to 20 people started living in the park and, in addition to setting up the more typical tents, have now built a wooden, tarp-covered structure with a foundation, along with a paving stone stairway cut into the hillside.

It’s all within 20 feet of the children’s play area — which has some New Holly residents wondering whether they’ve been cut off from City Hall.

“They brought in tools and dolly-loads of scrap cabinet wood and plywood,” Steele, 65, says. “I know they say the homeless have nowhere else to go, but how can you come into a kids’ play area and just build your own structure? There’s got to be something illegal about that.”…

Some New Holly residents have been petitioning the city…for weeks now — about how their kids can’t go to the park during a pandemic, about drug use and nightly smoke from camp fires, about the occasional person in the park shooting a bow and arrow or brandishing a sword. City officials assured New Holly residents that the encampment would be temporary, and that the city’s outreach team, called the Navigation Team, would check on it regularly.

The article notes that even in Seattle, where tolerance for homeless camps is much greater than it is in other parts of the country, having a camp set up adjacent to a kids play area is too much for many residents. But the city has done nothing.

Last week Seattle’s KIRO 7 reported on another homeless encampment where residents had set up a “metal shop” that operates late at night, complete with power tools, hammers and a generator that fill the nearby housing development with smoke:

The structure, built of wood and tarps, is secured by a locked door. But Peterson and his neighbors have been complaining for months about what they hear and smell coming out of this structure…

“Nighttime is when they all come in,” [Ed] Peterson said. “That’s when the grinding wheel starts, the metal shop starts and motorcycles are running up and down the trail.”

“Last night I was awakened by some hammering noises in that metal shop,” said Derrick Weathersby, who lives in the complex looking over the trail. “And this noise will go on until five in the morning. It was very concerning to hear what I thought were gunshot sounds. This has happened on many occasions.”

Peterson said he’s called the Parks Department which maintains the land, the police, the fire department and some federal agencies. So far there has been no response. When KIRO 7 contacted the city about the situation the station received a response explaining why they haven’t acted:

The Seattle City Council eliminated funding for the Navigation team. This means that City-conducted outreach to people at unauthorized encampments, including shelter referrals and removals of unauthorized encampments that pose public health and safety risks, is suspended.

That’s the reason the city hasn’t responded to complaints from New Holly residents about the camp set up near the neighborhood playground. Here’s the backstory to why the city is in this situation.

Back in August the Seattle City Council cut funding for the so-called “navigation teams” that are responsible for clearing camps and helping the homeless find other options. The council did so, it claimed, because the navigation teams included police and they wanted the money spent on police redirected to someone else.

Major Jenny Durkan vetoed that proposal saying the council lacked a plan for moving forward on a number of issues where they intended to make cuts. For a few weeks it seemed the mayor and the council were negotiating some kind of middle ground but then in September the council voted to override the mayor’s veto and in so doing cut funding for the navigation teams.

So that’s where we are now. The homeless have set up a metal shop in a park and built wooden structures next to a playground and the city has no way to respond. The next budget will likely include some kind of replacement for the navigation teams but that might not happen until next year. In the meantime, the homeless can do literally anything they want on public land.

Here’s KIRO 7’s report on the “metal shop” from last week: