Rantz: Homeless at encampment with pool explain why they won’t leave

Jul 20, 2023, 3:25 PM | Updated: Jul 23, 2023, 10:33 pm

Homeless people who set up a Seattle encampment featuring a new, controversial pool said they will not move. In fact, they said they’re the victims.

The site has garnered national and international attention since adding a chlorinated pool. Occupying wooded land across the street from a senior housing complex, the encampment has grown over the past year. The city, county, and state refuse to sweep the encampment because the King County Regional Homelessness Authority (KCRHA) won’t act until housing is secure. But two of the homeless who live in broken-down RVs said they’re not interested in moving, even if they’re offered an apartment.

While outlets cover the encampment from a distance, The Jason Rantz Show on KTTH was offered a tour of the encampment by two of its homeless occupants.

The encampment grew over the years

Monica used to remodel homes in South Park, but said she lost her job when her boss was arrested for identity theft. In the process, Monica had her social security card and driver’s license confiscated, but didn’t explain how. During the COVID pandemic, with no steady job and income, she started living on the streets.

“So I connected with some of the homeless and have made friends and we’ve kind of stayed together since then. We ended up here at this encampment. We call it, ‘Trees of Comfort,'” Monica told The Jason Rantz Show on KTTH.

She said the encampment houses between 20 and 25 people, and it’s grown in the last year. They live in RVs and cars. Monica said many of them have full-time jobs (some as landscapers and one as a chef) and are choosing to live at the encampment to save money or for the freedom.

To help make Trees of Comfort more of a community, Monica said she decided to put her remodeling skills to use. It’s why the encampment has grown so exponentially in the last several years.

“So what we decided to do when I started building, it started out with just a small little pond. And I decided to put some fencing, some stairs to make it easier to walk through. Then we wanted to make it presentable for the community looking into where we’re living, so I decided to build,” she said. “And that’s when the building took off. Then we talked about maybe going out with our motorhomes and starting, one by one, building tiny homes out here and making this a living community for us and hoping that we would be able to stay with the property if we maintained it. And so that’s what we’re working on and that’s what we’ve been working on. And it hasn’t been easy.”

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Drug use is a controlled problem

As the encampment’s infrastructure was being built using lumbar Monica says was donated by a friend, more homeless set up camp.

Monica’s friend, Scott, also lives at the encampment and said he’s been there for years. He’s watched it grow to what it’s become now. He said it’s sometimes a struggle to keep it clean but said most people in the community will pitch in to clean up. By Seattle encampment standards, it’s relatively clean and the residents do seem to at least try to maintain the grounds. There were no visible rodents like you see at other encampments.

Drugs are a problem for the site, including for Scott. He said he became addicted to pain medication that he said he takes for cancer, though he did not elaborate. It seems to be, at least in part, why he doesn’t have a relationship with his family. He said being away from family hurts, though he said they’re local.

Monica said public drug use is rare, but it does occur. “Everybody does that [drug use], in the privacy of their own homes.”

There were no needles or drug paraphernalia visible when I toured the grounds. That is, in my experience, a rarity.

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Encampment gets a pool

Within the last several weeks, Monica decided to install a pool at the entrance to the encampment. She said it “wasn’t something we planned to put in, but was an add-on.”

“And the reasoning for the pool was something that I decided to put in for the people here in the encampment to enjoy, to keep us cool. We are working hard to keep this place up and keep it clean. And we, too, deserve to have a cool off. Anybody can have a pool, everybody will enjoy their time in the summer. We don’t do a whole lot of intermingling in the community. Why not have a pool here so we can enjoy it in our own space?” she said.

Using buckets, Monica said she and others at the encampment carried water from a nearby creek. She said the pool is chlorinated to keep it clean.

“And I’ve got a fence going up, so we can have it be enclosed and private. And that’s all I can say about the pool. It’s for our enjoyment,” she said.

Monica did not think the pool would be seen as controversial, adding “We could be doing a lot more worse than putting in a pool.”

Not being very neighborly?

Monica and Scott allege the senior citizens living across the street, or building staff, have been causing problems for them, not the other way around.

Residents of the Arrowhead Gardens Senior Living Apartments across the street have complained about violence and drug use at the encampment. They say they often hear gunshots. But Monica and Scott maintain it’s not coming from anyone living at their encampment. In fact, both claimed they’ve been the victims of drive-by shootings courtesy of residents angry they’re living at the encampment. Monica and Scott say someone living in a corner unit at the encampment has been shining laser lights at their faces throughout the night.

“They’re trying to blind us,” Scott explained.

Monica and Scott downplay the dangers of the encampment. Seattle Police, who were doing a check when I arrived at the encampment on Saturday morning, are investigating a suspected homicide at the encampment in May.

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There are no plans to leave

The land that the encampment occupies is owned by the Washington State Department of Transportation. Institutionally, it rejects sweeps. Despite receiving funding from the state Legislature to clear encampments such as these, it’s working with the King County Regional Homelessness Authority (KCRHA) on outreach to the homeless residents. But the KCRHA also rejects sweeps, and said none will occur until housing is secured for each resident.

Both Monica and Scott said they do not want to leave, even if they’re offered an apartment or tiny home.

“That is where I’m seeing the controversy of the pool being here is that they’re [the public] seeing a little too much permanency here,” she explained. “And that’s right, we deserve to stay where we’ve developed and where we’re building. The land has been left here, the natives have abandoned this land. And for those natives, some of us that are native, are keeping up with the property. And that’s our job.”

Though Monica acknowledges that the homeless have “torn our city apart,” she says her group is not one of the problems. Rather than spend money clearing her encampment, she wishes we would “use the money to fix our city than to focus on us.”

“We refuse to ask any of the government or the community for help. And so that means we got to do it on our own … because we want to show them that we’re doing this on our own,” she explained.

She does, however, say it’s only fair if the city gives them reimbursement for the work they’ve done at the encampment, such as landscaping (including tree thinning) and the fencing being built.

A sad state

Both Monica and Scott are friendly and seem kind. They’re obviously struggling, a sadness in their eyes, but they seem well-intentioned, spending their days convinced that they’re better off in the woods than in a home or shelter. But they’re not.

They’re living in a tragic state of delusion: their encampment is neither clean nor safe. And while I believe that neighbors dump trash at the encampment, which Monica alleged, and even harass them, the homeless clearly understate the dangers of the space. It’s hard to take at face value anything Monica or Scott told me during our hour-long conversations. I don’t think they’re lying, but I think they’ve convinced themselves what they say is the truth.

These people are outreach-resistant. And the longer they stay at the encampment, the harder it will be to move them.

Monica and Scott seem clearly in need of mental health care. They’re not too far gone and can be helped, but not when living in an encampment, keeping to themselves. This is not how anyone should be expected to or allowed to live when we have resources to help. I don’t blame them for wanting to stay on-site; I blame the city, county, and state for enabling them.

Listen to the Jason Rantz Show on weekday afternoons from 3:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. on KTTH 770 AM (HD Radio 97.3 FM HD-Channel 3). He is the author of the book What’s Killing America: Inside the Radical Left’s Tragic Destruction of Our CitiesSubscribe to the podcast. Follow @JasonRantz on TwitterInstagram, and Facebook. Check back frequently for more news and analysis.

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