The Burke-Gilman Trail in Seattle, adjacent to Fremont’s ship canal, is popular with cyclists and people taking walks.
Cars are not supposed to be there. That’s why a neighbor, who wants to remain anonymous, decided to confront the people parked on the grass right next to the trail on Thursday afternoon.
“Please don’t film my car,” says a man unloading furniture from a black Subaru, to which the neighbor responds, “I can do whatever I want.”
This neighbor says he’s positive the people involved are Stop the Sweeps Seattle volunteers moving a homeless couple to the area, along with all their belongings, who are now hunkered down at nearby Fremont Canal Park, adding to a growing encampment.
I asked the couple why they refused services and shelter options offered by the city at the Capitol Hill sweep on Thursday morning. He responded, “Because we like doing our own thing.” She added, “The shelters…they’re not run well.”
Stop the Sweeps is a controversial mutual aid group, known for shuttling homeless people to other parts of the city after encampment removals. They’ve been criticized for disrupting sweeps and undercutting Mayor Bruce Harrell’s plan to get people off the streets.
This resident of the neighborhood near the growing homeless encampment is frustrated. He asks those moving in the homeless people, “The environment doesn’t matter to you? The kids that want to use this park don’t matter to you?”
“It basically crystalized in my mind that this is not like a bed availability issue, this is a choice,” says the neighbor.
Bruce Drager with Greenlake Homeless Advocates say many men and women living in Seattle’s encampments are now rejecting shelter options because of what he calls poor conditions inside: “Most humans do not want to be living in these shelters,” he says.
Tiny houses and motel rooms are the most coveted, but Drager says there aren’t enough, and he expects the homeless shuffle to continue. So far, the Mayor and King County Regional Homelessness Authority have not responded to my requests for comment on this issue.
“Cause if we’re going to sweep ‘em here, they’re already right now talking about the next park they’re going to go to,” says Drager, who opposes the sweeps.
Some homeowners called the police because of all the commotion caused by the confrontation between the neighbor and Stop the Sweeps volunteer. Officers arrived and moved everyone along.
Neighbors say if Stop the Sweeps tries moving in more homeless people into their neck of the woods, they’re prepared to defend their neighborhood.
“It’s just one of those things like if you don’t, then what?” says the neighbor.