Across the street from Arrowhead Gardens senior living community on Myers Way in Seattle sprawls a massive homeless encampment.
On Tuesday evening, frustrated seniors at Arrowhead Gardens unloaded their concerns over the encampment and slammed the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) for mishandling the response.
The seniors said they were “ashamed of the state,” and “feel threatened” living in close proximity to the encampment.
The encampment has raised concerns about open air drug use, human trafficking, gun violence, and an overall increase in crime.
Diane Radischat, president of Arrowhead’s senior living association, says a homeless person from the encampment “defecated in one of our washing machines.”
A theme of the comments made Tuesday evening was a sense that the rights of the homeless and drug addicts were being prioritized over the members of the senior living community.
“When are you going to care about us?” asked one of the seniors.
“I want to ask who’s helping us, because I hear you all say that you’re helping them, but who’s helping us?” said another.
The questions got personal, with one senior asking officials, “would anybody want their parents to live here under these conditions?”
WSDOT official Brian Nielsen acknowledged that, “not being able to share definitive timelines is not what you wanted to hear,” but would not provide a timeline and instead asking seniors to “trust in the process.”
However, Nielsen did say that new RV’s and vehicles would be blocked from moving in and that outreach to the 48 people living in the encampment is underway.
CoLead, a King County non-profit, will be working to house the homeless at the encampment.
“We figure out what’s going on with this person, how did they get here?” explained Lisa Daugaard of CoLead.
Daugaard’s outreach has been implemented at other encampments on WSDOT property, and “none of them have actually been repopulated,” an outreach worker says.
“There are many, many more stories than what you’ve heard in this room” Radischat emphasized.
She isn’t totally satisfied with this game plan. “It has taken a long time for you to get to us,” Radischat remarks.
Washington state continues to address encampments at a questionable pace.
Earlier this year, Governor Jay Inslee said “we go big, and we go fast” when it comes to resolving encampments.
When I asked him why only 22 encampments have been closed at a pace of two per month, Governor Inslee told me, “we’re making really good progress on this.”
Regardless, Radischat says the evening’s comments have put WSDOT, the Mayor’s Office, the King County Regional Homelessness Authority, the Seattle Police Department, and councilmember Lisa Herbold all on notice about the impact on seniors.
These officials heard seniors in distress say that they “never know when a bullet might come through my window,” and “did not move here so that I could see prostitution.”
At the very least, everyone can agree that this is not the way our grandmas and grandpas should be spending their golden years.
Watch Seattle Police Lt. Dorothy Kim share police stats from the encampment:
YEAR TO DATE INSIDE ENCAMPMENT:
-22 stolen vehicles recovered.
-15 to 20 vehicles linked to campers trying to elude police.
-Multiple arrests at the encampment, including one man who failed to register as a sex offender.
-People running away from police then hiding in the woods.