Ship Canal Bridge encampment clean-up continues despite setbacks

Mar 30, 2023, 9:08 AM

Ship Canal Bridge encampment...

Encampment underneath the Ship Canal Bridge before it is cleared out (Photo from Sam Campbell)

(Photo from Sam Campbell)

Update 3/30 8:48 a.m.:

Fencing put up around the encampment has apparently been ripped open on the west side of the Ship Canal Bridge encampment. WSDOT officials have said that they will repair the fence.

It is unclear how the damage was sustained.

Neighbors say that they want the state to ensure this area stays off-limits.

All 14 of the people documented as having lived at the encampment accepted housing offers, and no one new has come back, according to the King County Regional Homelessness Authority.

WSDOT says that they are now clearing the east side of the encampment and are expected to complete the project over the course of the next few days.


Cleanup of the encampment underneath the Ship Canal Bridge is underway Monday after the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) said they would be clearing underneath the highway after protests from concerned parents.

WSDOT crews are expected to be onsite to clear the area around 9 a.m.

Parents protest Ship Canal Bridge encampment near school

This comes as parents and residents in the area are sharing their concerns about crime, drug use, and fires.

Less than two weeks ago, a group protested over Interstate 5, demanding the encampment be removed due to the danger it presented to its proximity to a local school.

Don McKenzie was one of them– he told KIRO Newsradio two of his children attend the John Stanford International School –which sits only a couple hundred feet from the camp.

“We are fed up with the state’s inaction to find housing for the people living in the homeless camp under the Ship Canal Bridge, less than 200 feet from our kid’s school,” MacKenzie said. “There’s been gun violence, there’s drug use. There’s crime. We’ve had enough. The state said it’s the No. 1 priority, and nothing is happening.”

The Ship Canal Bridge encampment is a “priority site” for the KCRHA after the state gave $50 million to them to get housing for people living around freeways.

The homelessness authority previously estimated there were 220 people who needed housing between the CID and Ship Canal Bridge encampments.

“We know that there is shelter space available, there’s over a 20% vacancy rate in our homeless shelters right now. People need to move into those places and take the shelter that is offered to them, it’s not an appropriate place, it’s not a healthy place for them to be living next to the freeway, and it’s not good for our community,” MacKenzie said. “It’s not good for our kids.”

Another resident, Tony Lucero, has a slightly different opinion on the issue, saying that clearing the encampment is not enough as long as the city does not work to address the deeper inequality in the city’s housing crisis.

“It seems like it’s addressing the symptom and not the root causes, we’ve got such a problem with housing in the city, and it’s just a function of the real inequality we have in Seattle and cities like it,” Lucero said.

Seattle City Councilmember Alex Pedersen, representing District 4, which includes John Stanford, made a statement to MyNorthwest echoing the concerns of parents.

“I support the passion of parents sick and tired of government agencies that have allowed more than a dozen people to suffer outside for nearly a year under I-5 in dangerous and inhumane conditions with deaths, fires, gun shots, thefts, and other crimes next to a public elementary school,” Pedersen said. “With all the financial resources and time provided, Washington State officials and the King County Regional Homelessness Authority are overdue in providing shelter and securing this site to prevent any new tragedies on their watch. I continue to implore the responsible agencies to take action now.”

WSDOT owns the property where the Ship Canal encampment is located.

The site has had several recent fires and three shootings, among other crime and safety concerns.

Sam Campbell contributed to this report

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Ship Canal Bridge encampment clean-up continues despite setbacks