Seattle parents worry about the homeless when their kids play sports in public parks

Seattle’s Q13 published a story yesterday about the return of kids to city parks. After a year without school or team sports, kids are now getting back to playing baseball, but in many cases that means sharing space with homeless people who have claimed space in the parks, many of whom are drug addicts or have mental problems. Not surprisingly, parents don’t see that as a great combination.

“It’s not that it’s an eyesore,” mom Andrea Morrison said.

Morrison said her main concern is that kids are being threatened and harassed while playing or practicing on the playfields. She said recently, her 10-year-old son and his friends were at the Ballard Community Center field practicing when a homeless person verbally assaulted them.

“There is someone camped at the dugout and he comes out and starts threatening the kids,” Morrison said.

Morrison said the man cursed at the kids and threatened to kill them.

The little league pays the city for the right to use these parks but when parents called to complain the city didn’t seem to care. “It just gets passed along … basically no one seems to be responsible, no one says they can help,” Morrison told Q13.

At another park where a girl’s softball team was practicing a naked man apparently OD’d in the bathroom:

“While the girl softball field was practicing there was a gentleman in the bathroom that was naked, overdosed, or died, not sure which,” Reich said…

Parents say campers are using drugs while kids are around and porta-potties on the property have also been set on fire.

Of course it’s not just the parks with sports fields where homelessness is a problem. Residents spent months complaining about the tent city that popped up in the city’s oldest park. This King 5 report is from last October:

The city did nothing about this for many months despite dozens of calls to police because the progressive City Council voted last August to do away with the so-called “navigation teams” whose purpose was to find people in these tent camps a place to live. It wasn’t until late October, shortly after the report above, that the city funded a replacement.

Earlier this month the city finally moved to clear homeless people out of Denny Park. Here’s a description from one of the homeless people living in the park of how it became “disgusting.

In 2017, the city spent $2 million dollars on a renovation. But when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, all the tech workers disappeared, and tents began popping up, and staying.

Last year, several of that core group left — mostly Native Americans, who were able to get hotel rooms with funding from the federal government. New people moved into their tents, Moreno said.

“Then someone stole the generator,” Moreno said. Then someone else went to the bathroom on the lawn, and another person. On Feb. 17, a large fire damaged a number of tents, according to a spokesperson for the mayor.

“Now it’s disgusting,” Moreno said.

Earlier this week, Seattle’s Jason Rantz wrote about the long effort required to finally get the city to clean up Denny Park:

It took eight months, over 60 calls to 911, 10 arsons/illegal burns, five domestic violence incidents, four assaults, three sex offenses and an attempt to burn an officer alive in his patrol vehicle, to get Seattle officials to clear a massive downtown homeless encampment.

And the sweep came only after a private group of fed-up volunteers did their own outreach work and cleanup.

Does this seem reasonable? Is this putting public safety first?

It shouldn’t be this difficult to clean up an illegal outdoor drug den which is prone to other serious crimes. Kids shouldn’t have to deal with with crazed homeless people who’ve decided a baseball dugout in a public park is now their home. But for some reason, this is tolerated in Seattle’s parks year after year.

Rather than close this with video of the cleanup this month, here’s video from December showing a walkthrough of Denny Park. Would you bring your family here?