Homeless already returning to camp site the city of Seattle cleared out last week

Last week I wrote about a homeless camp in Seattle near the I-5 freeway, just one of the hundreds (the current estimate is 400) in the Seattle area. After two months of complaints from local business owners and residents about threats, trash, and rodents, the city’s Navigation Team came to remove the residents and clean up the mess. Today a columnist for My Northwest reports a new tent is already up at the freshly cleared site:

It hasn’t even been a full week, but a previously-cleared homeless encampment is returning to a north Seattle neighborhood…

The encampment was cleared, but now at least one tent is back up. More are likely to follow. While the Navigation Team has been working hard to clean up the encampments, they quickly reappear.

“It is not uncommon for the team to see the same people living unsheltered at new or returning encampments across the city,” Will Lemke, Navigation Team spokesperson, told the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH. “There are countless factors to why people do not accept shelter or return to an area that was recently cleared. Regardless, the team will continue to remove encampments that pose public health and safety concerns and try everything they can to get people the help they need to get out of homelessness.”

The City of Seattle’s lax enforcement means that most of the homeless know that they can just come back to the exact same spot to camp out — or move just a few blocks away.

The Navigation Team was required by law to offer every person removed from the camp a bed in a local shelter. Only one of the dozen or so people at the Northgate campsite took the city up on that offer. The rest melted away to other illegal campsites where they could continue to drink and use drugs without interference. The city brought trash trucks which cleared away tents, trash, human waste, drug needles, and everything else the residents left behind. A bulldozer was used to scrape the surface of the ground, presumably to remove any hidden needles and to remove human waste that could potentially make someone sick.

The threat from used needles isn’t just a theoretical problem. This weekend a woman in the same area went to the local mall to return some items. On the way out to her car she dropped a few items and reached down to pick them up. From My Northwest:

“I went down to grab my keys and my bag, and I felt something poke my left hand,” Jennifer told KIRO Radio’s Dori Monson. “I picked up my bags and I looked, and there I see a used syringe.”

When Jennifer examined her hand, she found that the syringe had drawn blood. She keeps a first aid kit in her car and was able to clean the wound on site.

Immediately, Jennifer drove to Harborview Medical Center to get tested for blood-borne illnesses such as Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, and HIV.

Jennifer (not her real name) will now wait a week to find out if she’s been infected with Hep. C and three months to find out if she’s been infected with HIV. That’s a serious price to pay for the city’s tolerance for low-level crime.