City of Seattle clears a homeless encampment in Ballard neighborhood

Oct 26, 2023, 7:24 PM

Image: Crews clear out a homeless encampment in Seattle's Ballard neighborhood on Thursday, Oct. 26...

Crews clear out a homeless encampment in Seattle's Ballard neighborhood on Thursday, Oct. 26, 2023. (Photo: Kate Stone, KIRO Newsradio)

(Photo: Kate Stone, KIRO Newsradio)

Dozens of tents in two areas near Leary Way in Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood were cleared Thursday.

City crews loaded up bikes, mattresses and other large items. The sidewalk between 14th and 15th Avenue NW that used to be covered in tents has been cleared. Anything past 14th is considered a separate operation so a spokesperson for the city of Seattle said that will stay put for now.

This is part of a coordinated drawdown of tent and RV encampments near Leary Way due to health and public safety hazards. Lori Baxter, a communications advisor to Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell, cited “RV fires, illegal dumping, pedestrian access and mobility impacts, drug use, and other illicit activities” in a statement emailed to KIRO Newsradio Thursday.

Thursday’s clearing was of two focus areas within this larger neighborhood, one near Quest Church and one near the Terminal.

Around 40 people were displaced by the clearing.

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The city says they have been offering shelter and services to all these people for months, and did so again Thursday.

“These site resolutions follow months of intensive outreach services to individuals in the area to assess their needs, remove barriers that can often prevent entrance to housing, and connect individuals to shelter and service resources that fit their individual circumstances …” Baxter told KIRO Newsradio.

“Of the 37 individuals originally identified as living unsheltered at these two focus areas, 36 have been successfully referred to a shelter resource that meets their needs, and many have already transitioned into shelter,” Baxter continued. “For people who moved into the two focus areas more recently, additional offers of shelter are being made at the site today.” However, it was not clear if the city’s offers of shelter include long-term housing options for those impacted by the clearing.

The affected speak out

A woman named Brianna who has a tent near the cleared encampment and knew people who lived there, had a different view about the city’s offer.

“Everyone was told the sweeps were going to be in November,” Brianna said. “And they come on a random day and they say, ‘We can give you housing, but the stipulation is you have to come with us now and you can only take two bags with you and then the rest of your stuff gets torn down and thrown away,’ which is actually really disheartening and kind of like dehumanizing.'”

When asked how much notice the city gave those in the encampment, Brianna disagreed with the city’s assessment.

“What I’ve experienced is a three-day notice before they come in (and) sweep,” she said. “But they posted a notice and then a couple hours later, that’s when they came and said we can give you housing and come with us, now.”

She noted outreach people have been to the area. But they have offered items that “(help) in the moment, but doesn’t help in the long run.”

“We do have outreach people come through, but they offer food, socks and stuff like that. They have not been offering housing,” Brianna said. “It hasn’t been housing offered until a couple days ago … I know for myself, a lot of people out here housing is really what we are craving what we really need. And so to kind of have that just … sprung on us with no time to prepare was shocking to a lot of people.”

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Brianna told KIRO Newsradio she wants housing “more than anything right now,” She said she has a job helping with the cleaning and maintenance of a local gyro shop. But it doesn’t pay enough to cover her monthly bills. She says she is on waitlists for a permanent housing option and hopes it will help her get off the streets for good.

“(This) is why housing would definitely be really really, really helpful, honestly, because it would just kind of help with … my own self-perception … knowing that I’m in a place where I can shower and be clean, clean my clothes and strive for something more …”

Brianna concluded by taking a bigger picture view of what housing would mean to the many people who want it.

“That’s definitely the first step to getting people back into being a functioning member of society is to really get a roof over their head that is stable, that they can be clean and have a place (where) they’re safe and (and that they can call) theirs.”

Contributing: Steve Coogan, MyNorthwest

KIRO Newsradio

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