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Defund police efforts target Seattle encampment enforcement

SEATTLE (AP) – The Seattle City Council has voted to dismantle a team of police and outreach workers tasked with relocating homeless people to shelter before removing their encampments.

The council decided Wednesday in a 5-4 vote to strip funding away from the Seattle Navigation Team and redirect the money to community programs for the homeless as efforts are made to defund the police department, KOMO-TV reported.

Some have criticized the team’s tactics, saying it is effective at sweeping tents away but not in connecting people to the help they need to end homelessness.

“They’re just police still. They come, they tell you to pack up and leave,” said Jordie Wright, who has been sleeping on the sidewalk at the Ballard Commons Park.

Resident Leslie Haynsworth has said the team has tried to come in and get people into housing, but “not everyone wants help.”

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan opposes the move, saying the vote to eliminate the unit without a plan to bridge the gap with outreach services could “pose the most serious public health and safety dangers.”

The council is scheduled to vote on a final budget next week.

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