“I don’t always call them sweeps. Sometimes I refer to them as ‘enforcement actions’ or ‘cleanups.’ But I think when you are moving people around who have nowhere to go because people don’t want to see them, then ‘sweeps’ can be accurate. If I was the administration, I think I would be less concerned about what they are called and more concerned about the impact it has on people and communities.”
~Cathy Alderman, Colorado Coalition for the Homeless.
Critical Issue #2: Sweeps: the forced removal of people using tents or tarps to shelter outdoors from a specific area.
Why are Sweeps a critical issue?
- There is no sanctioned campground to move to
- Being “moved on ” from one hostile location to another creates trauma and ever greater obstacles to mental and physical health, employment, education and any other movement toward stability and well being.
- Campers often form supportive communities that are difficult to reproduce after a forced dispersal
- peer support and community are critical survival tools, especially for people with few resources
- sweeps cause interruptions and loss of support from service providers and other community members
- Encampments serve as a place to store important personal possessions that may be lost forever during a sweep.
- unsheltered individuals have the same property rights to their personal possessions as any other person in Pierce County
- these rights still exist even when items are temporarily left unattended in a tent.
- Sweeps are an expensive and unproductive use of municipal resources
- Carrying out the task of evicting people from their homes (no matter how humble) will create trauma for any but the most callous government employees as well
What Can We Do About Sweeps?
- Know the relevant guidelines and legislation: CDC guidelines and Martin v. City of Boise
- Advocate with local elected officials and other leaders for no sweeps without appropriate alternatives
- Join the effort to End Street Homelessness in Pierce County by 11/1/2021
- Oppose false dichotomies. We can maintain the public commons AND provide safe public space for unsheltered people to sleep
- We can respect the rights of housed people, businesses, government employees, and people without houses all at the same time
More About Sweeps
- Against CDC Guidance, Some Cities Sweep Homeless Encampments. (Stateline, an initiative of The Pew Charitable Trusts)
- Puyallup has paid more to attorneys defending its homeless laws than to service providers (Tacoma News Tribune)
Ideas for Pierce County? Bring them to the Tacoma/Pierce County Coalition to End Homelessness – let’s solve this.