Fox Nation host Lawrence Jones reported Wednesday that Seattle parents “have just had enough” with the city’s handling of the homeless population.
Jones told Fox & Friends at least two schools planning to reopen are overwhelmed by the local homeless population. Edmond S Meany Middle School and Broadview Thomson K-8, specifically, are preparing to accept children into their classrooms once more — but the health and safety risks outside their walls could pose the biggest problems.
Jones said he saw “needles everywhere” during his trip, and questioned the government’s role in ensuring the safety of both their homeless population and students. “You would think government has a responsibility to keep folks safe [and] would get them out of the area and put them in a safe area where they’re not around kids,” he said on the show. “We want these people to get the help that they need, but you cannot have needles open everywhere where kids are,” Jones said. “It’s common sense.”
According to Jones, parents have been petitioning the city for a solution without any sign of real progress. And while school district officials reportedly assured them they are working to “resolve the issue,” they could not guarantee the problem would be solved before the schools reopened. Worse, city officials are “refusing to insert themselves in the situation, saying it’s not their jurisdiction, it’s the school district’s jurisdiction.”
“Obviously, nobody is taking the problem seriously,” Bill Steele, a local living near Broadview Thomson K-8 said. Others described multiple incidents involving a local “little league” field. “Within just the three weeks we’ve been practicing, we’ve now had four different incidents involving homeless at these fields,” Ballard Little League President Steve Reich told KIRO.
Still, a school district spokesperson insisted help was on the way. “We are working in partnership with the City of Seattle to support community members residing at the encampment near Meany Middle School,” the statement said, continuing:
SPS [Seattle Public Schools] will be identifying the area of the encampment that is close to the school, supporting City contracted outreach partners to identify solutions to challenges, and making clear the boundaries between city property and district grounds.
The statement shifted some of the blame to hardship brought on by the pandemic, saying the global health crisis “deepened inequities, including access to housing.” The school district said it was “not a problem with easy solutions,” but committed to “working in partnership to address it together and do so in a compassionate way.”
Seattle Parks and Recreation Public Information Officer Rachel Schulkin reinforced the statement with a similar interpretation. “Encampment removals have been limited over the last year due to COVID-19,” she said in a statement, “But as the City opens new shelter spaces like at Executive Pacific Hotel and Kings Inn, we hope we can address encampments on sidewalks, playfields, and parks.”
2020 saw the nation’s homeless population swell by 3%, but Seattle continues to be one of the cities most affected by the crisis. Their homeless population is 6%, more than double the national average.