Project Seattle: Street campers, businesses want answers from city

Street campers and the businesses that surround a south Seattle unsanctioned homeless camp, that are often at odds with each other, can agree on one thing: they want straighter answers from the City regarding the status of camps in general and if they can the stay or if they need to go.

Seattle Public Utilities and Traffic Enforcement officers from the Seattle Police department showed up Monday morning at camp that has been growing in size along State Route 509 just north of the 1st Avenue South bridge.

They were there for a RV remediation assessment for removal of garbage and vehicles set to start Jan. 18. Officers placed notices on the windshields of about a dozen RVs, campers and cars, warning its owners the vehicles need to move within 72 hours or the vehicles will be ticketed and possibly towed.

It’s part of an all too familiar dance with homeless campers and the City of Seattle that some campers and businesses are tired of doing.

“They'll tag them, they'll leave, seems like for two to three days max, then they are right back in the same old spot until they are kicked out again,” says Stephen Curtis. He’s the equipment manager for Samson Tug and Barge and its lot is kitty-corner from the camp.

“The city doesn’t stay on it, they just seem to let it go,” says Curtis, who, among several people we spoke with, wants straight answers from the city when it comes to allowing camps or not.

”I think they need to make something that's black and white, there is no grey area because it confuses everybody,” says Curtis.

Butterfly, a resident of the camp for a month says she’s seen this before.

“This is the second time, they came before Christmas and nobody moved,” she said.

Another camp resident Alvin Wafer says many in the camp were moved out of a long standing camp on Myers Way in September. That’s when the city cleared — in one of the largest cleanups in 2018 — a heavily wooded camp hidden on 40 acres between SR 509 and Myers Way.

“We all split up with some going up in the hills over there and some coming here,” says Wafer.

“There are about 25 people in camp hidden in the trees up there,” says Wafer pointing to a hillside a quarter mile away.

“The only problem is, is getting rid of the garbage, it’s just awful,” says Safer.

“I’ve never been able to comprehend how somebody in that situation can generate so much garbage,” says Frank Leonzal who works as a dispatcher for a school bus yard across the street from the camp. “That’s the biggest part of the nuisance, is the garbage.”

“Some black and white rules would be nice so everybody knows these are the rules and everybody is being treated the same,” says Leonzal.

He says the bus yard has had to turn off its outside water faucets because of water theft. The manager of a petroleum yard says they’ve done the same thing and blames campers for cutting his fence to steal items. He says they are trying to be compassionate.

“Some of the homeless folks are breaking into them and that's not cool,” says Butterfly. Wafer agrees.

“And people stealing for each other, it’s all kinds of crazy stuff man, it’s just crazy,” says Wafer.

The owner of a Shell Station across the street says he’s had restrict his bathroom to customers only after campers would lock themselves into the bathroom for hours, use the sink as a shower and make a watery mess.

“It’s a problem and the city keeps letting it happen,” he says.

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