Recent shooting death leads to removal of large Seattle encampment that always comes back

A troublesome homeless camp that’s been the source of several violent crimes near Seattle’s Little Saigon neighborhood was cleared again on Friday. It’s part of a campaign led by the Mayor’s office to remove encampments that have been declared a public safety hazard and an obstruction.

About 50 structures and tents had been erected on a hillside at 10th Avenue South and Dearborn Street over the last several months.  The camp has been removed several times before over the last several years, but it always repopulates.

Typically, the city only removes camps on public land such as sidewalks, parks and state right-of-ways. The hillside is privately owned by Coho Real Estate. A call to their office for this story went unanswered on Friday.

Some residents told us they didn’t have any prior knowledge the encampment was going to be cleared.

"I didn't even know this was going to happen today. I had no idea," said one unidentified camper.  A spokesperson for Mayor Bruce Harrell says removal warnings were posted in the camp on March 21-- four days before Friday’s removal.

The Homelessness Outreach and Provider Ecosystem (HOPE) team identified 30 people living at the camp, says spokesperson Jamie Housen.   He says preliminary data shows 15 people accepted referrals to shelters on Friday and another 20 accepted referrals during the week.

Referrals and people actually spending at least one night at a shelter tend to differ. Of the 1,072 referrals handed out by the HOPE team in 2021, less than half showed up at a shelter and spent at least one night.

WA Legislature approves funding for cities to clean up encampments along highways

The Washington Legislature approved hundreds of millions of dollars in spending to help the state's homeless population, but Gov. Jay Inslee’s plan to set up a new agency to handle the encampments along state highways has failed.

Another unusual sight at Friday’s camp removal was a large presence of Seattle Police officers. Two years ago, under pressure from the Seattle City Council, SPD’s navigation team was disbanded and officers were ordered not to remove people from encampments.

Since that time, officers have been present to provide security for city workers who were doing the work of removing debris from a camp.

FOX 13 saw at least two dozen SPD squad cars surround the large camp. Police established roadblocks and prevented non-city workers from entering the camp, including residents who wanted to go inside and retrieve belongings.

"We are trying to go in for it, trying to get it," says one man who said he was living at the camp but was outside the police barricade.

At least two people associated with the group of anti-sweep activists were arrested by police. One woman was carried out of the camp in handcuffs.  An officer at the scene said she was being arrested for striking a police officer.

Another man was also led out of the camp in handcuffs after being arrested for trespassing an officer said.

The camp is located right across the street from the city’s Navigation Center, an enhanced 24/7 shelter that only accepts someone who was referred by an outreach worker.

The intersection of 12th Avenue S and Jackson Street, which has been the scene of an open-air market of stolen goods and drug dealing, is also just two blocks away.  

Seattle Police has increased patrols at the intersection, removed a bus stop and as of Friday, the market has disappeared.

Housen says, "an interdepartmental team meets regularly to determine which encampments will be addressed next."  

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