Fix Homelessness How to rebuild human lives

Youth Soccer Field Destroyed Next to Green River Encampment

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The youth soccer field at North Green River Park is surrounded by majestic trees and breathtaking scenery. And on weekends, it’s usually packed with kids and families who depend on this field. Many come from underserved minority communities in Kent, Auburn, and other parts of King County. 

Early Wednesday morning, Dean Aldridge of Valor Soccer says someone drove onto the field and caused more than $100,000 in damage doing donuts.

“These fields serve our most economically challenged kids,” Aldridge tells me.

Club officials say all weekend tournaments are now canceled and their season is effectively over.

“To see it like this, it hurts my heart,” says Ray Johnson, Valor Director of Development.

This is just the latest troubling incident along this stretch of Green River Road in unincorporated King County. 

“We run youth soccer; we give opportunities to kids,” says COO Rachel Wilton when asked if anyone had reason to target the organization.

Less than a hundred yards away, there is a massive homeless encampment getting bigger each day. I saw people building brand new shacks while others prepare to move in. 

Just in the past few months, the King County Sheriff’s Office says 911 calls to this area have been off the charts for shootings, fires, drug overdoses, fights, and abandoned vehicles. 

“Gangs are moving in,” says Aldridge. “This is what we’ve been dealing with down here ever since COVID.”

We decided to walk through the encampment that spills deep into the woods hoping to find witnesses to the vandalism on the field.

A homeless woman tells me she feels like the group living there could be unfairly blamed for the damage.

While Aldridge is not blaming the homeless, he has no doubt this encampment is attracting more crime.

Aldridge blames all this on failed “soft on crime” public policies and elected officials. Especially King County Executive, Dow Constantine.

“These individuals know this is just a free zone where they can shoot their guns, dump their garbage,” says Aldridge. “I have not heard from Dow, I have not heard from his office.”

Constantine has known about this problem since the start of the pandemic nearly four years ago. 

“If his kids or grandchildren were down here playing, I’m sure it would be cleaned up,” Aldridge insists.

But Constantine has only allowed crews to go into the encampment for trash removal. I reached out to his office for comment on this latest incident, but as usual a spokesperson responded by saying “we decline to participate in your project.” 

“There’s nothing humane about this,” says Aldridge.

I also asked the King County Regional Homelessness Authority for guidance on when people would be moved into shelters. A spokesperson says they’re working with the county and local nonprofits to develop a comprehensive response. Still no timeline.

“The county won’t enforce the laws, Kent won’t enforce the laws, Auburn won’t enforce the laws,” says Aldridge. “nobody’s taking ownership.”

And because of this, Aldridge says valor soccer is now planning to leave this area for good. 

“We’re a nonprofit, we don’t have the money to endure this.”

He believes the county is clearly prioritizing the needs of the homeless over his kids. 

“I don’t know how you recover from something like this.”

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Jonathan Choe

Journalist and Senior Fellow, Center on Wealth and Poverty
Jonathan Choe is a journalist and Senior Fellow with Discovery Institute's Center on Wealth and Poverty, covering homelessness issues for its Fix Homelessness initiative. Prior to joining Discovery, Choe spent several years as one of the lead reporters at KOMO-TV, consistently the top rated television station in Seattle. His in depth stories on crime and deep dive investigations into the homeless crisis led to measurable results in the community, including changes in public policy. Choe has more than two decades of experience in television news behind the scenes and in front of the camera for ABC, NBC, FOX, CBS, and Tribune. He has also been nominated and honored with multiple industry awards including an Emmy. Choe spent several years teaching classes on emerging media and entrepreneurship to under privileged youth in inner city Chicago. As an independent journalist, Choe also contributes regularly to the Mill Creek View and Lynnwood Times and has reported on exclusive stories in the past year for Daily Wire and The Postmillennial.