Dozens of squatters evicted from former Times building

SEATTLE -- Seattle police say anywhere from 60 to several hundred homeless squatters have been living inside the old Seattle Times building, and on Wednesday cops finally mounted a huge eviction operation.

Most of the squatters left peacefully when officers went through the building on Wednesday, but twenty people had to be forcibly removed and three were arrested.

Tony Kinsey had been living in the vacant building, which has a total of five floors, including two basement levels.

"Me being in there, it's just an empty place where people can be safe and sheltered," Kinsey said.

As the weather gets colder and wetter, many homeless people in Seattle are looking for anywhere to get out of the elements.

"It's getting cold," said Jami Kernen, who had been living in the Times building. "I can't go to the shelter because I have my dog and he's a service dog for mental health. It's not fair."

The squatters had been living in squalid conditions inside the building. The floors are covered in debris, garbage and human waste. Areas on Wednesday were littered with hypodermic needles.

One squatter said he and others made money selling what they could salvage from inside the building.

"We were in the building just basically scrapping the metal, cleaning it out before they could bring it down," said Terry Thurmond.

Recent complaints about the squatters prompted the city to take action against the Vancouver, B.C., company that owns the property.

Police on Wednesday cleared out the building so staff could enforce an "emergency order to secure a vacant building," according to police. Police say the owners are cooperating fully.

Some of the people who have been living in the building say the timing of the eviction couldn't have been worse.

"It's starting to get cold, and it's funny that they wait until it gets cold before they actually do something like this," Kinsey said.

Developers are looking at building high-rises on the property. But until that happens, some of the squatters feel like the city should look the other way.

"There's not enough places to take care of us. They should at least give us something. I'm just trying to survive," Kernen said.

The city dispatched social workers to the building on Wednesday to help direct the squatters to homeless shelters.
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