Homeless RV campers on the move again in Seattle

RV campers moved to this lot, owned by the Washington Transportation Department, after getting notices from Seattle police that vehicles parked longer than 72 hours would be impounded. (Photo: KOMO News)

SEATTLE -- A group of homeless RV campers is on the move again after getting 72-hour notices from Seattle police. The latest unauthorized encampment is along Second Avenue Southwest, near the former site of a Nickelsville homeless encampment.

“Our objective was to find a place where we wouldn’t be moved again, where we could kind of have some security, peace, and be able to exist,” said camper Rebecca Massey.

The site is on WSDOT property, and is used for storing equipment and materials, according to City of Seattle spokeswoman Julie Moore. During the summer, the area is expected to become the staging area for a resurfacing project on Interstate 5.

“We had to make a decision. We kind of scouted out the area and this looked as good as any,” said Massey.

The new encampment, which campers are calling “Camp Sanctuary,” is actually the group’s third location in less than a month. Initially, the campers were under the Spokane Street Viaduct, then they were forced to move to Colorado Avenue after the city evicted them.

On Friday morning, the city’s Navigation Team visited the site to look at the situation. Massey said the city workers took photos and talked with the campers.

“I told them we want to build a community here, and that we got the stickers and were looking for a safer place to be where we wouldn’t be swept,” Massey said.

As of Friday morning, at least 10 RVs were parked on the lot and more people were arriving with interest in moving there, including Larry Washington.

“I came here to see what I need to do to get in,” said Larry Washington who’s been living in his van in SODO with his dog after moving out of his transitional housing.

“I feel safer around people who got the same problems as I got,” said Washington.

Moore said it’s unclear how long the unauthorized encampment could remain on the property.

By email, Moore said the City of Seattle must consider the conditions at the site and other locations, and “address the most hazardous first.”

She said some of those hazards include: areas where people are sleeping outside in tents; locations that are physically unsafe for the individual or surrounding community; areas that have become so large that trash, hazardous structures and negative behavior become too problematic; and where there is a public health threat to the campers or surrounding community.

During the next two weeks, Moore said the city will address the illegal encampments along Interstate 90 at Rainier Avenue and Dearborn Street, as part of ongoing efforts.

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