Homeless crisis pushing into suburbs with new funding on the way

SEATTLE -- Expect to see more fencing along highways and streets along the I-5 corridor. The Washington Department of Transportation and the City of Seattle are ramping up plans to block off more open space to keep the homeless from expanding.

Neighbors miles away are finding that some are finding new life in places like Ballard Commons Park.

"I’ve been in this area for 16 years, so I’ve seen quite a transition,” said Jean Phillips, who lives a few blocks from the park.

She walks by rows of tents multiple times days.  They sit across from senior housing, a popular library, and a church.

This year, those living in the park could have been along Spokane Street or under I-5, in unsanctioned camps. They’ve been shooed away and locked out through sweeps and those tall fences.

WSDOT’s Travis Phelps says safety had to win out.

“We’re now having to walk and wade through folks that are camping there and calling that home,” Phelps said of the emergency repairs along roadways.

The agency is using around one million dollars for new fencing and other programs around WSDOT facilities and vehicles.

“To make sure we can make our equipment safe and secure. Two, to make sure that we don’t have folks, whether they are those experiencing homelessness or people who are just in the wrong spot accidentally wandering into our yard,” Phelps said.

That’s only a small part of the $34 million being given out as grants in a program announced by Mayor Tim Burgess.

“This crisis is a challenge to our conscience,” he said.

Burgess said the grants could double the number of people living in semi-permanent tiny homes.

They want quality options to bring people in from the cold, even if they are scattered to more suburban places like Ballard and Jean’s walking route.

Looking the other way won’t work anymore.

“Hopefully we’ll never accept it. It is a true heartbreaker,” she said.