‘Gradual closure’ coming to Seattle homeless encampment following murder

SEATTLE — He was reluctant to talk with us, but William Lavaris can’t take this anymore.

There have been break-ins, thefts, tapped utilities, and now, death.

“I don’t consider this a safe lot. It’s not safe for the temporary residents. It’s not safe for our employees,” said.

Lavaris’ Buffalo Industries building is feet away from where a 31-year-old man was shot early Tuesday morning and later died. A suspect is still on the loose.

It's violence in the street where people shouldn't be living.

“The sweeps have helped in the surrounding areas where people try and park, but they left out this block,” Lavaris said.

Two murders last year at the camp under I-5 known as “The Jungle” led to sweeps, which in turn scattered homeless people into smaller camps across Seattle.

Even with fencing, many with tents have ended up on Spokane Street.

Last week, Mayor Ed Murray bluntly admitted that homelessness is part of big city life.

“We're not going to solve the problem,” he said. “We house about 7,500 with the county every year, but about that number ever year become homeless.”

The city wants to intervene before people hit the streets, but the plan is muddled when it comes to what to do now.

Late Tuesday afternoon, the city's homeless outreach group said it would have a “gradual closure” starting on September 11.

The blog post said the plans had been in the works and are part of a four-week program for re-housing. Notices will be posted starting Wednesday.

Lavaris is still skeptical.

“There seems to be no coordination or communication. Hopefully that's changing,” he said.

Lavaris and other business leaders in the Sodo district say openly that they have had issues getting responses from the city homeless task forces.

The police come, but that means something terrible has happened, like Tuesday’s murder.

“There's only so much they can do. It's pretty clear that their hands are tied,” Lavaris said.

So Buffalo Industries has taken it upon themselves---bricking up some windows following break-ins, and some workers are thinking of carrying guns themselves---even before Tuesday's killing.

“I have employees who are more concerned about their safety than they are coming to work sometimes and that's understandable,” Lavaris said.

A fight for survival in a place that no one should call home.