The New Profitable Business of Clearing Homeless Encampments
Categories: Homes / Dwellings
The City of Seattle is paying a Specialized Company $240 Per Hour to Trash People's Stuff.
The fast-growing, progressive city of Seattle is privatizing some of the work involved in evicting its many homeless people from unauthorized camping sites to a new company—a firm specially created to clear out the places where the homeless sleep.
The company is called Cascadia Cleaning and Removal, and its website advertises "Homeless Encampment Abatement and Removal" services. On a recent morning, I encountered two of their workers manning a trash bin next to a homeless encampment—where an elderly man was still sleeping—on a sidewalk beneath I-5, a few blocks away from City Hall. One worker told me they "toss everything" if no one is around to claim their belongings. He said they would come back again later because the camp was still occupied.
The city is paying the company $240 per hour for "encampment cleanup in designated locations as needed," according to a copy of its contract, $80 per hour per worker in a three-person crew.
"On the other side, the mayor is abdicating responsibility by privatizing the contract for these sweeps," Harris said. "Does he think no one's watching?"
The number of sweeps has skyrocketed from 131 in 2013, the year Murray took office, to more than 527 last year. City officials say they offer the people they encounter shelter options. But they admit that only about 40 percent of people kicked out of illegal homeless encampments end up in city shelters—most are simply shunted to some other location. Homelessness has been on the rise: The 2016 One Night Count found 2,942 people sleeping outside—a 4 percent increase over the previous year. The city funds only 1,600 shelter beds.
"The fact that we have an environment that allows for this type of cottage industry is troubling," Rudensky added. "When the city sweeps encampments without telling people where they can be and pays $240 per hour to Cascadia for cleanups instead of providing access to restrooms, garbage pickup, and harm reduction, it is frustrating for advocates, expensive, and, in our view, counterproductive."
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