SEATTLE – Dozens of homeless people were swept out of their campsite in Seattle’s Sodo neighborhood early Tuesday morning.
City officials said the site, known as ‘The Field’, at South Royal Brougham Way and Airport Way South had become too dangerous to live in.
Union Gospel Mission and other advocacy groups offered homeless people services before and during the sweep.
The city of Seattle said there is plenty of space for people at other locations, but not everyone wanted to go to a camp that has rules. Some people set up tents only blocks away from the sweep.
“I’m going to stay here until the last person gets out,” said camp resident Weelah Thor.
The homeless camp had once been a place set aside by the city for people displaced from the infamous 'Jungle' homeless camp under I-5, but last week signs were posted at the camp warning everyone to leave by 9 a.m. Tuesday.
“This is probably one of the worst I’ve seen in Seattle,” said Darrell Rodgers, a health services administrator with Public Health – Seattle & King County.
City officials said the piles of rotting food, garbage, needles and human waste inside the camp were feeding an infestation of rats, making the camp unsafe for anyone.
“This population is probably one of the most vulnerable and sensitive that you can possibly have,” said Rodgers.
About a dozen protesters showed up to the camp shouting their opposition to the sweeps.
“The city really failed the campers on this one when they put them here,” said Simon Stephens, of StopTheSweeps.org.
Stephens said camp leaders tried to buy more time from the city so people could find new places to live. But on Monday, the Seattle City Council derailed a plan that could have extended the deadline by a week.
Stephens said the sweep means many will have to start all over from scratch.
“This is making it worse for them,” he said. “This is making them sadder and angrier, they’re already marginalized.”
City officials said they plan to collect abandoned property and store it for people, instead of throwing everything away. Several activists were also at the scene here, keeping a close watch to make sure that happened.