FOLLOWUP: Sweep begins at unauthorized RV camp in east West Seattle

Carrying out a plan first reported here last Thursday, the city is clearing the 2nd Avenue SW site [map] that has been an unauthorized RV encampment for three weeks. “Move along to where?” is the question that dozens of people have been asking at the site they call “Camp Sanctuary“; pull back from the trailer, and you’ll see police vehicles, with the SPD-led Navigation Team there to offer options.

The Southwest Precinct’s point person on homelessness-related issues, Community Police Team Officer Todd Wiebke, was there when we stopped by around noon; unlike the recently cleared area under the West Seattle Bridge, this is in the SW Precinct’s jurisdiction.

Officer Wiebke told us that while those on the site were warned last week that they, their vehicles, and belongings would be removed today, they have until tomorrow to clear out.

The original announcement of the campers’ arrival said they had been swept from parking spots in SODO; the city contended that it wasn’t a sweep, it was parking-rule enforcement. As for this site, a state-owned parcel adjacent to city land where tent camps have been evicted before, the city says WSDOT intends to use it soon as a staging area for summer work on I-5. We’ll check back tomorrow.

SIDE NOTE: Officer Wiebke’s been writing publicly for a while about his work. His occasional posts are also now being featured on WSB; the latest is in our Forum.

41 Replies to "FOLLOWUP: Sweep begins at unauthorized RV camp in east West Seattle"

  • M June 1, 2017 (2:50 pm)

    Many campers are back under Spokane street…where they don’t have it fenced off.  There’s at least 40 plus tents by 1st and Spokane next to cars sitting at the stop light from the 1st ave down ramp.  There’s more to the east. I reported it in and the city isn’t doing anything about it.  Initially they said they did the sweep to prevent more fires.  It defeats that purpose if they don’t enforce it.

  • wssz June 1, 2017 (2:59 pm)

    Really glad to see this homeless camp being cleared out. Allowing people to set up encampments like this anywhere there’s space is absolutely not a solution. The canisters of propane are just one of many reasons. Public safety must come first.  

    • Swede. June 2, 2017 (9:53 am)

      What about your neighbors propane bottle for the bbq? Unsafe? 

      Same thing. 

      • DarkHawke June 2, 2017 (3:11 pm)

        Well, yes, any propane bottle no matter who owns or uses it can be a fire/explosion hazard.  So can any gas tank or can, yet in neither case do they seem much of a problem in the hands of those who have proven responsible enough to maintain themselves in actual housing, and not eternal “urban camping.”  Environs of Atlanta found out the hard way that random propane canisters handled by the irresponsible can have catastrophic consequences.

  • I. Ponder June 1, 2017 (3:14 pm)

    Where have people gone who were previously living in un-authorized encampments?

    • North of Admiral June 1, 2017 (4:31 pm)

      Look along the ramp from I-90 westbound onto I-5 South and you will see dozens of campers. They likely moved from the cloverleaf that was cleared a couple weeks ago. Yesterday a lady was next to the road tweaking beyond belief. Must have gotten her fix. 

  • North of Admiral June 1, 2017 (4:33 pm)

    Just drove Harbor Ave from the bridge to the Water Taxi. Counted 9 RVs and one camper back pickup. 

    Its been hovering around 9 for months but curious if that is about to increase. 

  • Hempress June 1, 2017 (5:40 pm)

    We as an RV community would like a place to park. we are tired of moving every three days, some people don’t like to drive and don’t want to drive or have undriveable vehicles that can still be lived in but the city has offered nothing for a solution to our problem they seem to think that towing our homes one by one will make things better but it only creates more homelessness and more desperation most people are afraid to Park in the sanctuary because of  police enforcement but in reality parking in the street you are just as likely to end up in the Lincoln tow yards

    • clinker June 1, 2017 (6:45 pm)


      Thank you for taking the time to reply from the transient perspective.

      In your mind, what would the ideal way for the city to move people from an area that had previously been either authorized or in a “look the other way” state?

    • HTB June 1, 2017 (9:47 pm)

      Sorry, but you’re not a “community” You don’t get to park where ever you want when ever you want. Campers need to obey the same laws that the rest of us do.

    • DarkHawke June 2, 2017 (3:13 pm)

      May I suggest the nearest KOA?

  • flimflam June 1, 2017 (5:43 pm)

    “the city contended that it wasn’t a sweep, it was parking-rule enforcement” – well good. simple law enforcement on a few different fronts would make some major improvements for the quality of life in “new” seattle. it should simply not be ok to selectively enforce laws, nor should it be ok to trespass, give the camp a cute name, and expect that to fly…

    • JanS June 1, 2017 (6:40 pm)

      all a matter of semantics.  The reality is…these people, human beings, exist. As do their “homes”. They can’t just disappear into thin air, although that’s what it seems a majority of people want. Flimflam…what would be your idea of a solution for the people who   form these “camps”?   WSSZ…since you say that’s not the solution, what, in your mind would that “solution” be? Very curious…this is simply not a thing that will go away because you wish it so.  Obviously, the city just sweeps, and moves the homeless around every so often…the city designated a PILE of money to try and “fix” things…and they have failed miserably. What  would the WS community’s ideas be? Let’s have ’em….

      • Solution June 1, 2017 (7:32 pm)

        Here’s a solution.   Build barracks housing, direct everyone there, enforce illegal camping rules.    Don’t want to live in barracks?  Beggars can’t be choosers.

        • Ric June 2, 2017 (11:55 am)

          Barracks and chow halls worked fine for me back in early ’70’s.  Except we had to abide by the rules.  Guess my civil rights were being trampled and I wasn’t even aware of it.

        • David Clarke June 2, 2017 (2:10 pm)

          To Solution – Yes!

        • WS Guy June 2, 2017 (8:35 pm)

          Solution has the solution.

      • BG June 2, 2017 (8:22 am)

        “Where will they go?” is a common refrain.

        These people are not a homogeneous mass that will react and move as a group. If the laws in Seattle were actually enforced, like they used to be, they would be forced to make hard choices concerning their lives.

        No, they won’t disappear into thin air. Some would go back to mom and dad, some would be forced to spend their disability checks on rent, and some would sober up and accept the rules of existing homeless shelters. And some would just continue to live on the street or end up in mental health facilities. Some might even get a job and support themselves.

        When we as a city allow homeless camps, derelict RV “parks”, and the like, we are encouraging the path of least resistance. It is easier to sit around getting high and drunk, beg and steal, and live off of society than it is to take responsibility  for your own life.

         It is true that Seattle has dug itself into a deep hole by allowing this behavior to continue for such a long time.  But the longer we wait to do something the harder it will be. In order for the sweeps to have an effect there has to be uniform enforcement of our laws after the sweep.

        We throw a huge amount of money at this problem already. But it is money down the drain without demanding some responsibility on the part of the homeless. I am so tired of hearing about “offering services” or “getting them into treatment” like it is a brand new thing just waiting to be discovered. The homeless population knows exactly what help is available to them if they want it, and what they can get away with if they don’t.

        My solution is to immediately enforce no camping rules and present an ultimatum: stay in a shelter, rent a place, or hit the road and find a place you can afford. Yes, it will be an ugly mess until people get the message that Seattle is serious about this. But enough is enough.

      • TheKing June 2, 2017 (9:43 am)

        Let’s have ’em? Your mayor has it all figured out, did you already forget he hired a six figure salary “homeless director” to solve everything. They have also raised taxes, raised the minimum wage and the enabling effects of his drug policies have done wonders for the homeless. 

  • Erithan June 1, 2017 (6:25 pm)

    Post on the Facebook page says they have rigged vehicles to dump septic tanks if towed!? Can anyone confirm if this is a joke or not?

    That is some serious harm to the environment=( major disrespect to it…

  • Junction Lady June 1, 2017 (8:06 pm)

    I agree with SOLUTION

  • flimflam June 1, 2017 (8:31 pm)

    there are plenty of places that allow you to park your RV, utilize the facilities on the grounds, etc – of course they aren’t in the city and you have to pay. you simply cannot allow people to live, camp, park, whatever, wherever they choose. many of the vehicles are unsafe, inoperable, no tabs, no insurance – I am simply wondering why the laws cannot be enforced equally. there are services offered constantly to get people of off the streets but many folks want their “freedom” but without any of the responsibility of rules, taxes, jobs, etc.

    anyway, my only solution is offer shelter space and also enforce simple laws. 

  • New Thinking Needed June 1, 2017 (9:56 pm)

    flimflam has it right….and please remember the 75 million tax dollars used by the city for the homeless prevention/navigation program. The county also spends a similar amount….

  • Lost me June 1, 2017 (10:18 pm)

    I reviewed the Camp Sanctuary FB posts and they say they will let their septic flow if they are towed.  Great way to win support folks, dumping biohazards.   YOU LOST ME!  Find a legal RV park, pay the hookup fee and stop freeloading and threatening to pollute if you don’t get your free ride.  You are not a community.  Communities organize around the common good-this is clearly not that.  It’s tough out there, I get it – but I have zero respect for you for threatening to dump sewage if our authorities are enforcing the law.  You dump, you get a major fine.  

  • Ol Skool June 1, 2017 (10:53 pm)

    The majority of these folks need more than shelter. They need help breaking the addictions and poor decision making that led to their being homeless. Only then can we begin to fix this.  Why nobody really wants to address this in a solution based manner in this city perplexes me.  Take a walk near one of these camps during the day if you have a chance. Imagine what they become at night. 

    These people are children, parents, husbands, wives, people that are worried about by family members I’m sure. 

    We as a city and members of the human (humanity) race are not helping them by allowing this.

  • T Rex June 2, 2017 (7:37 am)

     The first step in all of this is these people who have addictions or mental illness must get help. Nothing else matters until they take that first step. Sadly, most of them will not and will more than likely remain homeless their entire lives. 


  • Archie June 2, 2017 (10:56 am)

    Some of you folks need to do yourselves a favor and  look up the term “false equivalence” before you embarrass yourselves even further.

  • momosmom June 2, 2017 (11:16 am)

    @JanS…Don’t get me wrong I feel for the homeless it’s a sad state of affair to be in and I am so grateful that I am not but what do you want for the City, State and or County to do for these people?

    You criticize people for what they think should or shouldn’t be done but you have to admit this is just getting way out of hand, maybe you have suggestions on how to help, the money to do so?


    And for the 6 figure employee “yea what is he/she doing for the homeless?”

  • BlairJ June 2, 2017 (11:19 am)

    While we debate what to do about people currently experiencing homelessness, we should also focus on how to prevent people (especially young people) from becoming homeless in the first place.

  • momosmom June 2, 2017 (11:44 am)

    And again, shouldn’t this be as  “The King” stated…what is that 6 figure earner doing for the homeless?!

  • Pedro June 2, 2017 (11:58 am)

    “…what would be your idea of a solution for the people who   form these ‘camps’?”

    To require them to move out of the city if they are unwilling to accept the resources that are being offered to them to move them out of these “camps.”

    There is already a solution in place in terms of the resources being offered; the problem is that certain individuals living in these “camps,” particularly the long term ones, are rejecting the offer because it comes with behavioral strings attached, like no drugs or alcohol.

    Thus, the real issue lies with what we do with individuals who reject such offers. The only logical response is to have them move along in hopes of finding somewhere that won’t require the kind of strings that do (and should) come with using some of the shelters and other resources. Our city should not be subsidizing or tolerating addiction and substance abuse, let alone enabling it.


    • WS Guy June 2, 2017 (8:37 pm)

      Nailed it.

  • T June 2, 2017 (1:19 pm)

    Take a drive along Meyers Way S.  That’s where the campers have moved to.

    I drive this road every morning and today’s camper line-up was by far the most I’ve ever seen.

    One camper was up on blocks, no tires with the sides completely stripped off to where you see inside.  I guess it’s there for good left for the city to deal with.

    What gets me is the amount of trash just thrown to the side of the road. Piles and piles of trash.

    Why can’t the campers use the transfer station that’s just down the street to dispose of their trash?   

    What the hell is happening to our city?  It’s unrecognizable, embarrassing and filthy.

    • WSB June 2, 2017 (1:22 pm)

      There is city-funded pickup on Myers. Will go take a look this afternoon.

      • WSB June 2, 2017 (3:48 pm)

        … Just went through at 3:45 pm. 12 RVs and campers; we did recognize one RV as one we’d seen at the 2nd SW site recently. More have gone to 1st Avenue S. less than a mile south of the site that’s being cleared (which we are on the way to right now). Just counted eight, and we pass this way often too, so that’s about half a dozen more than typical. As for trash on Myers, I’ve seen worse, but there’s a pile of bags at one spot. I’ll be back this way Sunday (going to the Camp Second Chance advisory committee meeting) if not sooner, so we’ll compare. – TR

        P.S. Also two SPD by the 1st Ave. S. spot. And we just passed the cleared site on 2nd – it appears cleared and fenced but four RVs/campers are in the pullout right outside the gate.

  • anonyme June 2, 2017 (2:07 pm)

    Agree with Solution and Ric.   Furthermore, whether it be barracks or sanctioned camping, all participants should not only have strict rules to abide by, but also participate in mandatory work crews.  There are lots of jobs to be done around this city.   Allergic to work?   Don’t like dirty labor?  Then get a real job on your own – or get out.

  • Hard Problem to Solve June 2, 2017 (3:54 pm)

    Remember that many of these people are mentally ill and/or drug addicted. It’s a fact that their reality doesn’t correspond to those who aren’t mentally ill. I want them gone as much as the most vocal among us, but there’s no solution without considering their plight. They will very literally be back on the street in 24 hours with any other solution they’re offered.

    One question I’ve always had, why is this a city problem and not a state, regional, or federal one? If we could validate that all these unfortunate people are native Seattlites, then we own the problem and owe them a break. In the other case, where Seattle just happens to be the most homeless-friendly community for 100 miles in any direction, then we’re attracting vagrants and giving them help at the expense of our productive citizens.

    It sounds like I’m making opposing statements, but I believe that the state gov’t should spread the funding to all counties in WA to offer local services that help people stay closer to their families and support networks when hard times hit. Once they’re here, the mean streets take over and the neediest of the population become the first candidates for a life of crime.

    • WSB June 2, 2017 (4:04 pm)

      Page 10:

      77 percent of those surveyed in King County were living in King County when they “most recently lost their housing.”

      For everyone who wants to “other’ the unsheltered people among us, go through that presentation, which was made earlier this week. You may have seen citywide/regional outlets’ stories about it; this is the info those were based on.

      • Coldheart Craig June 2, 2017 (9:24 pm)

        While the methodology of the data collection is listed, the quality of the data isn’t. 77 percent self-reported living in King County when they last experienced homelessness, but nothing regarding verification is noted. Normally, they collect zip code data, and there’s almost always a disproportionate amount of homeless people claiming their last zip code as being 98104, then subsequently the remaining zip codes that allow ‘general delivery’ mail pickup. There’s some data quality questions that arise under these circumstances, to the tune of around 25% of Seattle’s homeless that claim to have gone homeless inside Seattle claiming these inner-city zip codes.

        I’m not dismissing the importance of the statistics, just that the efficacy of using them meaningfully, without question, is in question.

  • A little ignorant June 2, 2017 (11:40 pm)

    A solution. to invest much heavier in the transitional support from street to services. If we however supply the means for rv tent life, they will come.  I am as compassionate a person as you will find, especially for the mentally ill, but I believe that in this city we can only help as many as our services provide.  I wish that we had services for everyone who needed it but we don’t. This particular city is no place to be without the means.  Global warming should bring more and more people to this area in the next decade. I think we’re only just beginning to see the concept of city camping. Camping should not be an amenity this city provides; we need to invest heavily in those we have the resources to help. 

  • Mitch June 8, 2017 (2:23 am)

    If SPD and the City were to do what so depressingly many of the commenters suggest, and really crack down on illegal camping, including arresting people for non-payment of fines, our already crowed jails would be over-flowing with new residents. And insisting that they be told to ‘move along’, as Pedro suggests, would only work if we threw them in jail if they didn’t. Which might not be a bad idea if it led to better treatment for the mostly really messed-up people who inhabit those dangerous and dreadful communities, and who, for whatever reason, don’t have it in them to find their way out.

    Frankly, there is no easy or one size fits all solution, although I do love the chain gang idea that several people suggested – nothing classes up a city like chain gangs. 

Sorry, comment time is over.