Seattle clears out homeless camp after multiple drug arrests last week

One week ago, Seattle police arrested seven people selling drugs in a homeless encampment under a freeway interchange. The drug operation was so organized that it had a tent waiting room for customers:

Seattle police on Wednesday arrested seven people and seized 19 grams of crack cocaine from a multi-room tent on Dearborn Street, between freeway ramps for Interstate 90 and Interstate 5.

Police learned individuals in the tent were selling cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine, and had set up a waiting room for customers inside one partitioned area in the tent. There was also an area in the tent for the use of recently-purchased narcotics. Police have also responded to several reports of gunfire in the area over the past week.

As a result of this bust (and the news it generated) the city of Seattle decided to clear out the camp which was home to up to 80 people. That’s been taking place since last night but it’s expected to take up to three days to complete.

The encampment, near South Dearborn Street, hosted 75 tents and structures, according to the city. Some estimated as many as 80 people had lived there, in full view of vehicles stuck in commuter traffic, before the city posting notice about the cleanup.

The city said about 30 people remained on site the day the removal began.

Homeless activists who routinely downplay the role that drugs plays in chronic homelessness. But that connection is not a shock to the people who lived in this camp. They know better than the activists what is driving the crisis:

Chris Thompson, who has been homeless for four years, insists drugs are at the heart of the homeless crisis.

“I’m addicted to drugs I’m not ashamed to admit it, it’s the main reason and I can look at the camera and say this, the main reason people are out here is drugs,” Thompson said.

He said with drugs comes other crimes in the encampment referred to by campers we talked to Tuesday as ‘The Jungle.”…

“People are out here for drugs cause they like to do them and they’re out here for drugs cause they make a lot of money off them and they sell them quickly,” said Thompson.

Here’s the clip:

Thompson said he plans to take the offer of a shelter bed but another camp resident, Lyman Kennedy, told KOMO News that he was going to pass on the city’s offer of shelter. “I’m kind of lying to myself really because it’s easier (to stay in an encampment) in a way, but in the long run it’s the hard way,” he said. He didn’t spell out why he wanted to find a camp rather than accept a bed but for a lot of homeless people the answer is simple: It’s harder to procure and do drugs in a shelter.