After months of complaints, Seattle clears homeless encampment (Update)

Seattle has developed a high tolerance for homeless encampments along the streets and sidewalk, but this week it cleared on particular camp along the I-5 freeway after months of complaints from nearby business-people and homeowners. From KOMO News:

The camp had been growing for two months on WSDOT property along Northgate Way near an I-5 ramp. Around 30 people lived there, according to a camper. The City received several complaints from neighbors about garbage, human waste, and the camp’s close proximity to busy roadways…

Neighbors complained to the City for weeks, some feeling ignored. But the City says planning a cleanup like this takes time. They had to bring in several agencies and special crews to clear needles, hazardous waste and trash. They even scraped the soil to clear waste…

Under City rules, the Navigation Team had shelter beds available to every person cleared out of the encampment. They say, as of Wednesday afternoon, only one person took them up on that offer.

So one person took the offer of a shelter bed and the rest simply moved on to other encampments. Maybe some of them will be back in a week or two and then the city can take another two months to clear the same space again. Meanwhile, My Northwest reports on the mess the campers left behind for the city to clean up:

In their wake, Northgate campers left abandoned tents, piles and piles of garbage, shopping carts, and human waste. City workers to hauled it all out. With more than 400 unsanctioned camps, the city is doing what many have asked — get out there and clean it up, over and over again.

“One of the reasons why we are cleaning up this site is because it’s a public health risk having waste and food out here, with rodents and whatnot,” Lemke said. “Businesses on the other side here have been contacting the media, reporting they have had public safety issues.”

Last month, KOMO reported about the complaints from neighbors which, in addition to the mess, included threats of violence from the camp’s residents:

“This is a very, very bad place,” said Jessie Singh, who owns two gas stations across the street from the camp.

Singh said he feels bad for people who are down on their luck but worries that some of the campers who live in this field across the street are drug-addicted and dangerous. He’s already had one confrontation.

“I asked him to leave but he pulled a knife on me,” Singh said.

Given that everyone living here was offered a bed in a shelter, the only conclusion you can reach is that these people want to live like this. Why? In most cases, it’s because they’re addicts who aren’t interested in living somewhere that might hinder their pursuit of drugs or alcohol.

In King County, 191 homeless people died on the street last year. That was up from the previous year. If you’re living in a tent by a freeway because you prefer to be stoned all the time, compassion probably shouldn’t look like letting you keep choosing to drink and do drugs until you die. At some point, compassion has to move toward getting these people off the path to self-destruction even if they say all they want is more drugs and alcohol.

Anyway, here’s a news report on the cleanup:

Update: Two weeks ago someone living in nearby Ballard, about 4 miles from where this particular homeless camp was located, posted this security camera video. The caption reads “Security camera set up in Ballard. After the homeless camp moved in, lots of activity.” One way or another, local residents are paying for all the drugs and alcohol being consumed by homeless addicts. The fact is we don’t usually see it and it doesn’t make national news, but it is happening every day:

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