Seattle community fed up after homeless campers turn cemetery into dumping ground
SEATTLE (KOMO) - Jewish cemeteries in North Seattle have been marred with dirty drug needles, garbage and human waste.
The community is fed up with the campers who are moving in and they're calling for the city to do something about it.
For families who've laid their loved ones to rest in a sacred, final resting place, the Bikur Cholim and Historic Sephardic Jewish cemeteries have turned into dumping grounds.
“That's the only word you can use to it is ridiculous because this shouldn't be happening in civilized society,” said Bikur Cholim congregant Ari Hoffman. “This shouldn't be happening to anybody and imagine it's your loved ones there."
Headstones are marred with drug needles, trash and human waste.
Families with the synagogues associated with the cemeteries said they've spent $50,000 cleaning up the mess that continues.
"Prostitutes were working in the woods, drug addicts are working in the woods,” said Hoffman. “Groundskeepers come in on Monday morning and they find everything from a weekend of fun -- which is needles on the ground, crystal meth on the tombstones.”
They say people living in camps have overrun the private property and some RVs have been parked outside for years.
Campers at the cemetery KOMO News talked to said they're not the problem.
"We take all our stuff all the time and we clean up other people's garbage,” said camper Donald McPherson. “We've been here for six months and haven't had a complaint."
Families said they've complained to the city numerous times with no help. Families are planning to file a grievance with the city if nothing is done.
"The city isn't doing their jobs at all,” said Hoffman. “The name of our synagogue, the name of our cemetery is Bikir Cholim, 'helping those who are sick,' that’s what we do. But we're talking about drug addicts, we're talking about alcoholics and we're talking about the mentally disturbed and they need help, too. But leaving them on the street is not compassionate."
Seattle city leaders told KOMO News they are aware of the concerns at the cemeteries.
The city's homeless response team inspected the site Friday and is looking into the conditions there.
Officials said, “there are more than 400 unsanctioned encampments throughout Seattle and the team only prioritizes encampments for removal that pose the most significant public health and safety impacts to both people living within the encampment and the surrounding community.”
Officials add the response team will keep reaching out to the homeless people in and around the cemeteries and figure out the next steps.