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Homeless camp in shadow of Space Needle now cleared

A homeless encampment along 3rd Avenue that gained notoriety after a couple built a “mansion” on the sidewalk was emptied Tuesday morning, July 3, 2018. (Photo: KOMO News)

SEATTLE - A homeless encampment that gained notoriety after a couple built a “mansion” on the sidewalk was emptied Tuesday morning.

Seattle police, city crews and shelter staff helped people pack up their tents and belongings. The Seattle Animal Shelter even delivered a carrier and food for one woman’s cat.

“Today we are moving from this sidewalk where we have been camped out at for the past almost three months,” said Jay Drew, who lived at the encampment. “The city has posted us last week and they gave us a week to get ready and get out of here because it’s illegal to be on the street camping.”

Julie Moore, spokeswoman for the Department of Finance and Administrative Services, said the city has been working with the people living at the encampment, prepping them for the cleanup. When city crews showed up Tuesday there were only about 15 people left to move, she said.

“We’ve been working with them for weeks trying to get them to take services and other offers of shelter,” Moore said.

The encampment gained national attention after Melissa Burns and her partner built a large home on the sidewalk. The tents were also steps from where a tourist was attacked last month by a man living at the encampment.

William Rollins, who goes by the nickname “Catfish,” said he has lived in plenty of encampments, but this was the most high-pressure.

“Tensions got high sometimes but generally I felt safe there, but you never know,” Rollins said.

Rollins said he welcomed a chance to leave the streets. He and his partner were moved to a tiny house village in Georgetown Tuesday. He said having four walls and a roof will not only make him less worried about his things being stolen. But, he said, but it will be better for his partner.

Rollins said it was noisy and chaotic living on Third Avenue. He said they had no privacy.

“Yeah, I have hope,” he said Tuesday. “Nothing ventured, nothing gained. It could be very good for us. I’m looking forward to a tiny home.”

But, until a tiny house is available, the two men will live in a large “dorm” tent inside the village.

Many of the people who lived in the Third Avenue encampment started leaving last week, including Burns and her partner. They disappeared after a Compass Housing Alliance, a non-profit agency that has a contract with the City of Seattle, bought them one-way plane tickets to Kansas.

As Drew packed up his tent and belongings Tuesday morning he said he has waited for permanent housing and has heard very little from the city.

“It’s that list thing and I guess I’m just too far on the list, but still after nine months I just don’t get it,” Drew said.

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