City Of Seattle Starts Clearing People Out Of A Large, Unauthorized Homeless Encampment

Sep 12, 2017

People who have been camped in tents along Spokane Street in Seattle’s SoDo neighborhood have to find a new place to live. The city has begun clearing out an enormous encampment that stretches multiple blocks from close to the Duwamish River to Airport Way South.

A man who goes by the name Country was busy moving stuff out of his tent, including a dresser.

“It’s my house. I have carpet, too,” he said. “I had hardwood flooring.”

As he folded the poles of his tent, Country said he’s been homeless off and on for eight years. He has been staying here because it feels safer than being alone, and he wanted some company.

“No matter how much a person may hate society or a specific group of people, you have to have human contact,” he said. “It’s just how we’re made.”

But he rejected the idea of sleeping in a shelter. So did a man who gave his name as Trenton.

A man named Trenton who said he won't relocate to a homeless shelter.
Credit Ashley Gross / KNKX

“Shelters are for people experiencing Irma and Harvey, and they can’t wait to get out of those shelters,” he said. “When you sleep right next to somebody and you’re 40 people right next to them, you take your family and your friends, put 40 of you together, every night, night after night, you’re not going to get along. Warehousing doesn’t work. Shelters just don’t work.”

Seattle Police Sergeant Eric Zerr with the city's navigation team acknowledged that some people will just find a new spot for their tents. But he said his team lets people know there are a number of options ranging from tiny houses to a new 100-bed shelter in Seattle’s First Hill neighborhood that allows pets.

“A good portion of the people that we talk to take up our offers and move inside,” Zerr said.  

About a dozen protesters showed up as the sweep began. Two were arrested for trespassing. One woman held a sign saying “Is this how we treat our neighbors?” 

Sergeant Eric Zerr with the city's navigation team explained to protesters that they would be arrested for trespassing if they stayed on the site.
Credit Ashley Gross / KNKX