By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
We often hear from people upset about RV encampments. We seldom hear from the people who live in them. Tonight we talked with an RV resident because of this:
Last night, that note was called to our attention on Twitter by local “mutual aid” volunteers. They said the note was found last night by vehicle residents on Puget Ridge. “We have been asked by our friends to help call attention to this, hoping that putting a spotlight on this will grant them some small level of protection should the author of this letter attack them or their homes,” the volunteers tweeted. When we asked a followup question, they offered to put us in touch with a recipient. This morning, they provided a name and number, and tonight we spoke by phone with Michelle.
She and her husband recently moved their vehicles (including a truck) to 16th SW alongside South Seattle College (WSB sponsor), where earlier today we counted three RVs and two trucks. Michelle says they found a copy of the note on their windshield; another woman who lives in a vehicle on the block found a copy stuck in her door. It’s not the first time they’ve been harassed, Michelle says, citing incidents of people throwing things at them, from rocks to dog poop.
They aren’t longtime vehicle residents, she says, but they are longtime West Seattle residents – 17 years. Her husband is a 33-year longshore worker who suffered a stroke last fall. They’re looking for an apartment, she says, and thought they’d found one recently, but the landlord changed their mind. So they’ve been moving from parking site to parking site – Westwood and Highland Park before the current stop in Puget Ridge.
For people like her who live in vehicles, Michelle says, what would really help is a place to park. Even a space they’d have to pay rent for. (The City Council budgeted money for a “safe lot” and the Regional Homelessness Authority has awarded a nonprofit a $1.9 million contract to get one going – LIHI, the same nonprofit that runs tiny-house villages including West Seattle’s Camp Second Chance – but they haven’t set one up yet, saying they’re still seeking a site.) A place to park where they wouldn’t get harassed.
Which brings us back to the note. If you could talk to the anonymous note-writer, we asked Michelle, what would you tell them? That their allegations are wrong, she says. Nobody there currently is a sex offender, drug dealer, or addict, as the note alleges, Michelle insists. In fact, she suggests, if they’re worried about sex offenders, they should be more concerned about a “halfway house” she says is somewhere nearby. (For the record, the sex-offender-search website shows 4 within a mile radius of that location, but nothing suggesting a cluster.) She does acknowledge that sometimes they “make a mess” – she and her husband have three dogs – but “we pick it up.”
As of our conversation tonight, nobody had yet to carry out the note’s threats. And she says it’s apparently on police’s radar, as officers came by earlier to check in. (Making threats like those in the note is a crime.) But for now, she asks for a little tolerance: “We’re not trying to be out here – we just have nowhere else to go.”
ADDED 2:38 PM TUESDAY: Just saw this in the SPD report summaries:
On 02-20-2023 in the early morning hours, a victim heard a noise outside his RV and observed an unidentified subject placing something on vehicle windshields. The victim was able to obtain some evidence but could not identify the subject. The victim later discovered the item was a note which referenced the RV owners’ housing status. The letter continued with threats to damage the vehicles, among other threats. The victim called 911 to report the incident. A total of four victims were identified and had all received the same letter. Patrol attempted to contact a suspect at his home but did not receive an answer. Bias crimes notifications were made.
The incident # is 23-048910.