Seattle sweeping encampments, clearing RVs in SODO ahead of All-Star Game

Jul 6, 2023, 6:09 PM | Updated: 6:10 pm

All-Star encampment sweep...

RV towing another RV in SODO near T-Mobile Park. (Photo screengrab from Jason Rantz' twitter)

(Photo screengrab from Jason Rantz' twitter)

The intersection of 3rd and Holgate Street in Seattle’s SODO neighborhood was home to the latest encampment sweep as officials look to spruce up the city’s exterior before MLB All-Star festivities officially get underway Friday with the HBCU Swingman Classic.

“I looked at the shelter availability this morning, and there were 16 open beds at wonderful 24/7 transitional housing projects with services,” We Heart Seattle’s Executive Director Andrea Suarez, who was at Thursday’s encampment clearing, told Jason Rantz on KTTH 770 AM. “So that always makes me bummed out to see that we have the resources, yet we spent how many thousands of dollars to do the clearing when we could just actually have people mandated to go indoors to these wonderful places that we already spent money on.”

We Heart Seattle is a volunteer movement that was started in 2020 to help organize trash cleanups and remove drug paraphernalia in public spaces, while also offering resources to those in need.

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“It’s inhumane to allow them to be outside in the elements on heaps of trash with rats, open sores, and untreated mental health issues,” Suarez said. “I see the same people over and over again. Many of the women there were like, ‘Oh, Hey Andrea. I have my tiny home. I’m good. I’m just down here helping my friends. This is where I’m hanging out.’ Everybody just circles around and hangs out at these open-air drug scenes, which is exactly what this is. People were shooting up drugs during the clearing as well today, which is kind of rare.”

This is the third time Seattle is hosting the MLB All-Star Game and the first time in 22 years. The previous games were in 1979 at the Kingdome and 2001 at what was then known as Safeco Field.

In addition to the increasing amount of city-led encampment sweeps, Together Washington hosted a Community Clean-Up event two weeks ago, with participants focusing on Pioneer Square, SODO, and the Chinatown/International District (CID). The SODO and CID Business Improvement Areas, The Alliance for Pioneer Square, the Downtown Seattle Association, and the Midtown Improvement District were also involved with the cleanup.

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“They’re telling us we need to be out of here by Wednesday morning,” Neal, a man who lives in an RV near T-Mobile Park, told KOMO News. “I have no idea where I’m going to go, as far as my gas tank will take me.”

“I don’t think it’s very serious. I think it’s a joke,” Suarez said in response to the threatening notices asking RVs to move from the SODO neighborhood. “If they have money to tow all these RVs a block from the stadium, then use that same money and get people a hotel for the night for crying out loud. Give them some sense of dignity. Don’t use them as a pawn in your political agenda. I think that’s the saddest part is today I witnessed very easy-going people who were moving their stuff along. No drama, no chaos. They weren’t screaming or yelling at the police. They were just like, ‘Yep, this is what we do and this is the lifestyle we choose.'”

Before and after: Deputies remove Parkland encampment on private property, arrest 8

In 2022, Seattle conducted 943 sweeps — averaging more than two-and-a-half per day — according to records obtained by Real Change. Of those sweeps, 771 (or nearly 82%) were classified as “obstruction” sweeps, meaning prior notice was not required before initiating the sweep.

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Seattle sweeping encampments, clearing RVs in SODO ahead of All-Star Game