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caption: The City of Seattle says this homeless camp is a public health and safety hazard.
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The City of Seattle says this homeless camp is a public health and safety hazard.
Credit: KUOW Photo/Kate Walters

Seattle to ramp up trash services for some homeless camps

Seattle is starting a pilot program to help decrease litter on city streets.

Part of that program will target trash generated by homeless camps. Officials are hiring someone to head up the pilot program.

Their job would be twofold: Spearhead cleanup of litter generated by both encampments and general foot traffic and coordinate trash services for some unauthorized camps.

Fred Podesta, director of operations for the city’s department of Finance and Administrative Services, said the city has tried providing trash services to people living outside before.

Sometimes it has worked and sometimes it hasn't. But they think it's time to expand the number of camps receiving such services.

"These are folks living in very hard circumstances and I have no problem with trying to be helpful. And the consequences of not being helpful are felt by everybody," Podesta said.

Podesta said encampments that use trash services appropriately will be less likely to be cleared by the city.

"If people living outside keep the area clean and safe, that's helpful to everyone, and you're not going to be the first place that we look to try to remediate the situation."

Trash generated by homeless encampments has been the topic of many complaints to the city. Podesta said providing trash services could alleviate the issue for people living outdoors as well as their neighbors.

He doesn't believe providing trash services will be read as the city condoning unauthorized encampments.

“This is a fairly modest effort in the scheme of things so I’m not concerned that people are looking to us for permission or condoning any of this.”

Podesta said trash is just a symptom and it's still important for the underlying causes of homelessness to be addressed.

The pilot program will be run through Seattle Public Utilities and is budgeted for up to two years.