RON AND DON

Pierce County deputies help ‘Uncle Steve’ from ‘Swamp City’

Jun 5, 2018, 3:09 PM | Updated: 4:11 pm
camp swampy, swamp city...
The Pierce County Sheriff's Office cleared 30 tons of garbage from the illegal encampment. (Pierce County Sheriff's Office)
(Pierce County Sheriff's Office)

Last week, the Pierce County Sheriff’s Office said it cleaned up 30 tons of waste at a homeless camp called “Swamp City.”

RELATED: Pierce County Sheriff’s Office cleans up 30 tons of waste

There were about 50 different people living in Swamp City, using tents and shelters that they built. About 100 additional people would come and go to buy drugs in the woods near Canyon Road and State Route 512.

“Swamp City was an area where we had people, basically, turn it into a large campground … taking over multiple levels of private property,” Pierce County Sheriff spokesperson Ed Troyer told KIRO Radio’s Ron and Don. “While that occurred we had huge spikes in crime, drug overdoses, medical aid calls, people roaming in traffic. It just caused mayhem all over the business community and in the neighborhood in that area.”

Pierce County deputies contacted property owners affected by the camp and organized court paperwork to get trespassing orders. They gave the campers limited options: leave or go to jail. But they also brought in agencies to offer services and help with drug addiction. They even offered jobs. After they left, about 30 tons of human waste, needles, and stolen items like bikes were removed from the camp.

Most everything in the camp was drugs, thievery, and “all kinds of people there who don’t want to work,” Troyer said. Basically, they opted to live in the campground instead of living by any rules. And those aren’t Troyer’s words, exactly. They come from a camper named “Uncle Steve.”

“Uncle Steve was a name we saw on some of the signs, and he was the leader of this particular Swamp City,” Troyer said. “Turns out, we did make contact with him and had some actual success with him in this past week. We worked with hm. He really got honest with us and worked with our deputies, and filled them in on how he got there, and why other people were there. He actually decided that he wanted help to turn his life around.”

Uncle Steve from Swamp City

Uncle Steve is accepting help from the Pierce County Sheriff’s Office. Below is an email from a Pierce County deputy working closely on the cleanup project explaining the situation.

Another interesting note: I contacted a guy who identifies himself as the original camper from Swamp City. I have talked to a lot of the trespassers who call him “Uncle Steve” and they all seem to have a lot of respect and care for him and say he has been there the longest. He has a great story. He and his now deceased best friend where the first to set up camp and no one set up without their approval. When his friend suddenly died the younger campers took over. Up to 100 trespassers would come and go in a single day (mostly to buy drugs from one occupant in particular.) He said an average of 50 people occupied the woods daily in recent months. He said he is actually really glad we took action. He called the other trespassers “Young, mostly drug users and sellers and a bunch of thieves.” He went on to say they are mostly all capable of working and are not homeless but choose this life because they don’t want to follow the rules anywhere else (those are his words exactly!)

He used to work for a local truss company and when they closed their doors for business he started selling cocaine. His family did the “tough love thing” with him. He was stubborn and determined to show he could live at rock bottom without getting help. He stopped using and selling cocaine and started drinking. He has been in the woods for about 7 ½ years. On Thursday afternoon, we talked a lot and I offered him assistance. He seemed to be genuine (talking about his 18-year-old son who he never sees and lives in Tacoma, his elderly father who has been sick, etc.) as he talked and cried he wiped tears and told us he hasn’t been emotional like this before. He restated he was glad we took action and cleared out the trespassers. He was upset about how the land had been dumped on and he was upset to talk about all the theft the other crimes trespassers did daily in the area. We told him we wanted to see him accept services and turn things around for himself. He accepted services and told us he would be “The one” who turns it around and that he was willing to do the work to make it happen.

We will see. Thursday afternoon he was picked up by a Comprehensive Life Resources person who took him to get a shower, clean clothes, food and identification. They will work with him to create a plan that allows him to move forward. I’m not sure what that looks like but I will keep tabs on it and let you know. This guy is the face of your story. He tells it from firsthand experience and calls it what it is, “thieves, trespassers, drug users and sellers etc.”

Ron and Don

...
KIRO Radio Newsdesk

Ron and Don’s last show on KIRO Radio

Last night was Ron and Don’s last show on KIRO Radio.
3 years ago
Kelly Herzberg in her natural habitat. (Photo by Rachel Belle)...
Rachel Belle

In Seattle, a personal shopper and stylist who only shops at thrift stores

If you think you can't afford a personal stylist, head to the thrift store with Sweet Kelly Anne Styling's Kelly Herzberg who will pull hundreds of pieces for you to try on.
3 years ago
Viaduct waterfront...
Ron Upshaw

What do we do with the waterfront after the viaduct is gone?

After the viaduct is taken down, we'll be left with a choice: What do we do with one of the most beautiful waterfronts in the country?
3 years ago
(MyNorthwest)...
Ron Upshaw

Shower Thoughts: Ichiro can give Mariners fans something to root for

Rumor has it that Ichiro might make a comeback next year, and I for one welcome it.
3 years ago
Border wall...
Ron Upshaw

Trying to figure out why people want Trump’s border wall

A little over 40 percent of Americans now support the idea of a border wall, but what is it about it that seems so attractive?
3 years ago
Dan McCartney, Pierce County Sheriff...
Don O'Neill

Why you could hear kids’ voices on Pierce County Sheriff radios Monday night

Sometimes, "gone but not forgotten" isn't always how slain officers are remembered. But in Pierce County, a special effort is being made to commemorate a fallen deputy.
3 years ago

Sponsored Articles

...

Medicare open enrollment for 2022 starts Oct. 15 and SHIBA can help!

Washington State Office of the Insurance Commissioner SPONSORED — Medicare’s Open Enrollment Period, also called the Annual Election Period, is Oct. 15 to Dec. 7. During this time, people enrolled in Medicare can: Switch from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage plan and vice versa. Join, drop or switch a Part D prescription drug plan, […]
...

How to Have a Stress-Free Real Estate Experience

The real estate industry has adapted and sellers are taking full advantage of new real estate models. One of which is Every Door Real Estate.
...
IQ Air

How Poor Air Quality Is Affecting Our Future Athletes

You cannot control your child’s breathing environment 100% of the time, but you can make a huge impact.
...
Swedish Health Services

Special Coverage: National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month

There are a wide variety of treatment options available for men with prostate cancer. The most technologically advanced treatment option in the Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform.
...
Marysville Police Department

Police Opportunities in a Growing, Supportive Washington Community

Marysville PD is looking for both lateral and entry level officers. Begin or continue your career in law enforcement for a growing, supportive community.
...
Comcast

Small, Minority-Owned Businesses in King County and Pierce County Can Now Apply For $10,000 Relief Grants Through Comcast RISE

Businesses in King County and Pierce County can apply beginning on October 1, 2021, at www.ComcastRISE.com for a chance to receive a $10,000 relief grant.
Pierce County deputies help ‘Uncle Steve’ from ‘Swamp City’