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In April, Seattle officials added capacity for 20 homeless shelter beds and promised to give three days' notice to homeless people forced from unauthorized tent camps in controversial sweeps.
Calvin Turner, 50, said he didn't get a warning before his camp under a Beacon Hill bridge was swept earlier this year. When it was gone -- taking family pictures and the few other possessions he carried with him -- Turner had a question for Mayor Greg Nickels: Where do you want us to sleep, your front yard?
In a symbolic way, that's where Turner and about 200 others camped out Sunday night -- the concrete exterior of City Hall -- protesting Nickels' policy of sweeping homeless encampments. Monday morning, an interfaith memorial service is scheduled for those who died while trying to survive outside.
Seattle officials faced criticism last year after publicity spread about the city's unannounced camp sweeps. The city has been dismantling camps for more than 15 years because of public safety and health problems. Protocols for dismantling the camps were released in April, but homeless advocates said that, even with the provisions, the sweeps only push homeless people into other city areas.
The protocols include giving camp residents at least 72 hours' notice of sweeps, storing some seized property for 60 days and providing "outreach" to camp dwellers.
"He's got top-notch lawyers scratching their heads and searching their legal briefs over the issue of urinating," Cole says. "We need to build public bathrooms instead."
The automated restrooms opened in 2004, in response to complaints that homeless people were relieving themselves in alleys because of the lack of public facilities. At the time, the city provided portable toilets for the public to use.
"I'm witness to the strong-arm robbery tactic of people's possessions," John Spelzini said as he set up a small green tent. While he is staying in transitional housing, he said, he has a friend, "an urban camper," who has lost his gear in several police sweeps. He called it inhumane.
"I understand some sweeps are necessary, but give 72-hour notice and store our stuff."