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Homeless camp on Aurora Ave. seeks permit renewal

The operators of a city-sanctioned homeless camp want the permit extended for another year, but the reception the idea received from neighbors highlighted as many problems as successes. (Photo: KOMO News)

SEATTLE – The operators of a city-sanctioned homeless camp want the permit extended for another year, but the reception the idea received from neighbors highlighted as many problems as successes.

The camp is called Licton Springs Village, and it’s located near the corner of Aurora Avenue and N 88th Street. It’s one of the city’s few “low-barrier” facilities, which means it takes people who get turned away from other shelters, including those struggling with addiction.

On Monday night, the public had a chance to offer feedback to the city on how the camp has been running and whether operations should continue. Some of the testimony from Licton Springs Village residents emphasized the life-changing differences the camp has made. Some of the neighbors spoke of skyrocketing crime.

“Our crime rate has increased tenfold. Car prowls. assaults. drug activity, needles,” said Jim Sullivan, who lives nearby.

Rising crime was an issue cited by many neighbors as a reason not to renew the operating permit.

Seattle police, who also attended the meeting, said crime in the area is up but at levels they'd expect. Acting Capt. Abram Barker said his statistician found a 19 percent increase in overall crime from the area between N 85th Street and N 100th Street, when comparing the first three months of 2016, before the camp opened, to the first three months of last year.

However, many others cited the good work being done to get homeless people transitioning off the streets.

“It makes us unique and I think it has helped keep us all safer,” said Amy Hagopian, an associate professor at UW.

Since it opened last year, Licton Springs Village has assisted 79 homeless men and women. Of those, 13 have gone on to find permanent housing. To accomplish that, $453,000 was spent in 2017.

“Licton Springs really has done a lot for me, and I just want you to know that,” said John Roberts, who lives at the homeless camp. “I hope that you consider this program going forward."

Other downsides were mentioned at the meeting. Seattle Public Utilities said it received 342 illegal dumping reports in the neighborhood last year, which one city staffer called a “significant increase.” There were also 38 reports of dirty needles just since January of this year.

A decision is expected in the next two weeks on whether or not the camp’s operating permit will be renewed.

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