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“It’s not if, but when”: Viaduct fire worries Sodo businesses

Belongings along Spokane St. under the West Seattle Bridge unauthorized homeless camp.

SEATTLE — Red spray-painted letters encircle a gray tent along Spokane Street under the West Seattle Bridge.

The words “Don’t judge me” are written so large they can’t be missed.

It’s a message from the person who is zipped inside. A message Seattle can see, but perhaps not understand.

“We are as a city dealing with a humanitarian crisis. A public health and public safety crisis,” said Erin Goodman, who works with the Sodo Business Improvement Area.

Goodman said Sunday afternoon’s fire under the Alaskan Way Viaduct off-ramp isn’t shocking.

After the forced dispersal of “The Jungle” near I-5 and the fallout from the RV fire on Spokane, large homeless camps have broken apart and re-formed just a few blocks away.

“It’s not safe and it’s not safe for people that live there as well,” Goodman said.

While neither bridge suffered known serious damage, Goodman says she and the other people she represents are lucky.

“We have 45,000 people that come to SoDo every day to work, and they deserve to do that in a safe and relatively clean environment,” she said.

The city declined an interview request, but told Q13 News that they have helped nearly 900 people transition off the street since February.

The Seattle Department of Transportation did not respond about the trespassing, but the homeless navigation teams are expected to continue going into the camps.

Goodman has been some improvement, but the potential for accidents or arson is real.

“It`s not if, but when,” she said.

The city was unable to share an official policy and plan for the encampments under bridges, so appears to close off sections only after something happens.

So Goodman laments the wait for new homes, and a safer SoDo.

“There’s a feeling that they`re not being in the middle of the street, that they’re not as much of an impact, but we know that that’s not true,” she said.