Years-long saga of Ballard Commons homeless encampment ends, but why now?

Dec 6, 2021, 3:36 PM
Ballard Commons...
Credit KTTH's Jason Rantz

The City of Seattle has officially ordered the removal of the homeless encampment at the Ballard Commons Park, effective Dec. 7.

The Homelessness Outreach and Provider Ecosystem (HOPE) team — part of the city’s Human Services Department — is assisting the relocation of the park’s occupants with approximately 60 individuals having accepted low-income housing offers, a city spokesperson told KIRO Radio.

Rosie’s Tiny House Village is among shelter options made available, with 56 granted shelter at its location near Ballard Commons.

The removal of the encampment marks the end of a saga involving more than 42 incidents that required fire department intervention, and 100 incidents of police response in the last six months, KIRO 7 TV reports.

There are a variety of variables at play that allowed for the city to take action. The Dori Monson Show’s guest host Matt Markovich attributes the removal to a number of confluent factors, one of which being the influx of federal money leveraged in the construction of affordable and low-income housing options.

“This would not have happened had it not been for the COVID pandemic: All that money that the counties and the cities got to buy hotels and tiny house villages,” Markovich said.

“That’s where these people are finally going: Rosie’s Tiny House Village, which would not have been actually on the map had it not been for all this federal money,” he noted.

Beyond cash assistance and shelter construction, pressure from Seattle City Council was a likely predicate for the camp’s removal as well. The council has signaled that, among their 2022 priorities, they are interested in building a playground at Ballard Commons Park.

“Councilmember Dan Strauss just got approved for about $700,000 to put in a playground there,” Markovich continued. “You’re going to update the playground when people are living in tents between the slip and slides and the whirly birds? Of course not.”

Ultimately, the appearance of the encampment is attributable to efforts the city made to provide sanitation resources to the public. The so-called “Portland Loo” was built at the commons in 2019 to the tune of $550,000, MyBallard reports.

“They became sources to use drugs and everything, and that’s what happened at this park. They put it in there for good reason. It has water, sanitation, you wash your hands. That’s the logic here, which is that you put resources— water, bathrooms— where people can use it, gravitate toward it. But then COVID hit, and of course those without access to shelters gravitated toward areas with decent infrastructure for health and sanitation.”

Listen to the Dori Monson Show weekday afternoons from noon – 3 p.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.  

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Years-long saga of Ballard Commons homeless encampment ends, but why now?