SEATTLE — On Friday, crews began demolition of the Alaskan Way viaduct.
And yet, homeless campers remain scattered beneath the 1.4 mile highway.
“We can pack up and move on a moment’s notice,” said Mike Wilson, who used to sleep under the viaduct.
Many homeless individuals told KOMO News they’ll wait until the noise picks up or until the City’s navigation team steps in before they move.
It is illegal for camping under the viaduct. Will Lemke, spokesperson for the City’s navigation team, cites safety concerns.
“It is an area we are concerned about because, before when people were camping right alongside of Alaskan way down there, there was no protection from trucks rolling by or construction equipment,” said Lemke. “It’s a really unsafe area for people to be living.”
Lemke said the City removes encampments along the viaduct about every other day or at least weekly.
In 2018, according to the Point in Time count, 12,112 people were experiencing homelessness in King County, of which more than half were living on the street.
A spokesperson for the Washington State Department of Transportation said they frequently are in talks with the City of Seattle to ensure everyone remains out of harm’s way during the demolition process.
WSDOT says the demolition should take about six months.
While the homeless will be forced to move, services ensuring their survival will remain along the waterfront.
“We’ll still be open. We’ll still be happy to serve them, that’s not going to change,” said Pete Kurtz-Glovas, Program Manager of the Compass Housing Alliance.
Kurtz-Glovas said the Compass Housing Alliance, located at Alaskan Way South and South Washington Street, serves about 200 homeless individuals per day with affordable housing options, laundry service, showers, banking and mail needs.
“We have a plan in place so that our entrance will actually move to Washington Street and clients can still access their mail, go to the hygiene center, use all of our services,” said Kurtz-Glovas.
WSDOT expects demolition along the central waterfront to be completed by June.