Another Death on Everett Streets As Task Force Prepares to Issue Report To City Council

Person down call

An Everett Fire crew and police car in the 1800 block of Broadway Saturday.

Person down call

The Medical Examiner arrives to the 1800 block of Broadway Saturday morning.

At least a half dozen times a day the police and fire scanner crackles with the message. “Person down, not checked on.” Police officers and firefighters are then dispatched to find a person lying on the sidewalk, in a doorway or even on the street. Most times the people are physically fine but sleeping off the effects of intoxication of one form or another. They are checked on and asked to move along. Other times, like this past Saturday morning at 7:15am in the 1800 block of Broadway, the person is deceased. Discovered once daylight arrives, lying on a sidewalk with people going about their business 50 feet away. The police, fire and medical examiner take note of the scene, try to determine what happened and continue their duties knowing that another call of “person down, not checked on,” will be coming their way soon…

Earlier this year Everett Mayor Ray Stephanson created the EVERETT COMMUNITY STREETS INITIATIVE TASK FORCE to examine problems in the city’s downtown core. On Wednesday, the task force will present its findings and recommendations to the Everett City Council. The report is too big to try and present here but did want to provide you with the draft problem statement so you can get an idea of the issues the City of Everett is facing. You can see the entire 18 page draft of the Task Force Report here. The city has developed a web site that chronicles the work of the task force since its formation as well as videos of the meetings and the working papers from them.

Here is the draft problem statement:

This Task Force was convened by Everett Mayor Ray Stephanson to “foster a vibrant and healthy community  by better understanding the street-level social issues in Everett’s commercial core areas and identifying potential short-and long-term actions for the community to address those issues.”

The street-level social issues that the City of Everett is experiencing are common to other urban centers throughout the State and the nation. In Everett, these issues are primarily occurring in our highly compact City center. The situation is exacerbated by the fact that Everett is the County seat: downtown Everett is home to the County Jail and most of the major human services providers for the entire County. As a Task Force, we share the Mayor’s vision that Everett become a vibrant and healthy community. A hallmark of this vision, in our view, is that our community cares about all its citizens and that we act, individually and collectively, to address the needs of all residents.

The Task Force identified the following street-level social issues and conditions to be of greatest concern:

Street conduct and behaviors:

Aggressive panhandling, loitering, vandalism, public intoxication, urination and defecation, drug dealing,bizarre, unpredictable, disoriented or disturbing conduct and speech; and sleeping, lying and sitting on the streets.

Physical conditions on the streets:

Littering, including alcoholic beverage containers and hypodermic needles; personal belongings stored or abandoned on sidewalks, in alleys and onother public and private property.

Criminal conduct (in addition to the above):

Shoplifting, car prowls, theft and miscellaneous other crimes.

Visible street homelessness.

Mental illness and addiction problems suffered by many on the streets. These issues are in large part—but not entirely–a symptom of homelessness, mental illness, addiction, and poverty. Task Force members and other community stakeholders and members of the public expressed the following concerns arising from or related to these street-level social issues:

The quality of life, attractiveness of the area, and vitality of business activity in the City’s commercial core areas are adversely affected.

Public safety in commercial core areas is perceived by many to be diminished.

Concern that visible street homelessness in the commercial core areas make those areas less attractive to visitors .

Concern for the well-being of individuals on our streets experiencing mental illness, addiction, poverty, homelessness and crime. The Task Force identified a number of constraints and obstacles to addressing these issues and concerns:

Institutional challenges:

Lack of an overall vision and focus on bringing together our currently fragmented criminal justice and human services systems to better address these issues.

Lack of communication and coordination among social service providers, government agencies, businesses and residents

Insufficient funding and service capacity to provide the treatment and other services required to successfully address these issues.

Insufficient supply of low-income permanent housing to meet the needs of the City’s population.

Insufficient police staffing to provide an increased presence in commercial core areas.

Traditional criminal justice and law enforcement responses, while appropriate for many, are often ineffective, inappropriate, and too expensive to deal with street level social issues–but effective alternatives to the traditional system are being deployed in limited ways in Everett.

Governmental restrictions often make it difficult to site housing and services and drive up the costs of these facilities.

Possible misallocation of resources–too great a focus on “band aid” solutions, not enough on root causes of street-level social issues.

Community conditions:

Lack of permanent affordable housing in the City, coupled with a high percentage of the City’s residents being “housing burdened” (paying over 30% of their income for housing).

Community fears about the siting of services and housing facilities in their proximity.

Lack of economic opportunity.

Unintended negative impacts on neighborhoods and businesses caused by services intended to respond to street level social issues.

Lack of public understanding of some of underlying causes and complexity of the issues.

Those in need lack the information about where to get help, and may lack the capacity to help themselves.

Editor’s Note: There are dozens of people working on the problem and that work will continue. If you’d like to learn more about it suggests you take a look at the above links and consider attending this Wednesday’s Everett City Council meeting which will be held at 6:30pm in the City Council chambers at 3002 Wall street in downtown Everett. You can also view the meeting on the City’s cable access channels or online here.

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My Everett News is a hyperlocal news website featuring news and events in Everett, Washington. We also cover City of Everett information and items of interest to those who live, work, and play in Everett.

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