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Northgate homeless camp raises new safety concerns for neighbors

Northgate homeless camp raises new safety concerns for neighbors

SEATTLE - Trash is piling up around a homeless camp that many neighbors say already poses a danger to drivers. The site sprung up about a month and a half ago along the access ramps for I-5 at Northgate.

It started with a couple of tents, but now the field is strewn with garbage and human waste. Neighbors said there are other safety hazards.

“This is a very, very bad place,” said Jessie Singh, who owns two gas stations across the street from the camp.

Singh said he feels bad for people who are down on their luck but worries that some of the campers who live in this field across the street are drug-addicted and dangerous. He's already had one confrontation.

“I asked him to leave but he pulled a knife on me," Singh said.

Thomas Pannek lives at the site. He said drugs are a problem but people like him are trying to work through their issues.

“Just because there are drug users here doesn't mean we are bad people or we are drug dealers,” Pannek said.

The field has also become a dumping ground for garbage with serious sanitation issues from the lack of bathrooms.

Jason Goss, who is also homeless, said there's no way he could live like that.

“I stay in Woodland Park and I make sure every day when I get up, all my trash is thrown in the trash can before I leave,” Goss said.

Another concern is road safety. The state Department of Transportation owns the property and campers sometimes dart across the on and off-ramps to reach it.

“Whenever they cross the road they don't look to see the car coming or which way the car is coming. They are just high on the drugs or they are in a hurry to go somewhere,” Singh said.

With all the problems, neighbors don't understand why the camp hasn't been cleared. Pannek says they just need a little more time.

“Three fourths of us really do try. We're trying," Pannek said.

DOT officials said they are aware of the problems - adding that the side of a highway is not a safe place for anyone to live. They are working with their partner agencies to address the camp and plan to clear it as soon as it’s feasible.

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