Green Lake residents surprised by ‘coordinated’ effort as homeless village pops up

SEATTLE -- A small homeless village smack dab in the middle of a Seattle neighborhood has homeowners upset.

About 13 tents are sharing two blocks in Green Lake at the corner of NE 5th Street and 58th Avenue NE.

It’s just one of 400 unsanctioned homeless encampments in Seattle but it stands out because of how close the tents are to homes.

Homeowners say they never thought tents would pop up just 20 feet from their homes.

“We’ve seen a lot of drug use, we’ve seen fights, we’ve called 911,” said one woman, who asked not to be identified because she fears retaliation.

She says the homeless village appeared in a matter of hours.

“They arrived with trucks and vans with palettes and tents, I didn’t expect a fully coordinated effort,” the woman said.

That coordination came from Matthew Lang and others with the Neighborhood Action Coalition.

Some believe the group is scouring for public lands to set up homeless encampments, but Lang says they never identified the property on Green Lake. But they did help the homeless people move into the neighborhood.

Some homeowners say they were surprised by a "meet and greet" set up on the day the village moved in.

“They had a large welcome sign for themselves,” John Owen Jr. said.

“I understand a camp moving in a residential area with kids, things like that (would generate concern), but on the other side, where exactly are they supposed to go?" Lang asked.

Neighbors say many homeless people are refusing offers of help but Lang says many don’t want to go to available shelters because they have too many restrictions. Some shelters will not allow pets or couples to stay together.

Lang says he tried to move the people into a sanctioned homeless encampment in Wallingford but there was no room.

The Green Lake encampment is right up against a tall wall; on the other side is I-5 leading homeowners to believe it belongs it belongs to WSDOT. But WSDOT says the area is for the city to maintain.

WSDOT said even if the land belonged to the state, they couldn’t clear an encampment without the city’s approval.

“Homeowners, taxpaying-citizens should be able to have equal rights but they are allowed to get away with so much stuff,” the unidentified woman said.

“Give us a time frame of how realistic, how long they can stay,” Owen said.

But Lang says the if the camp is removed, it will show up elsewhere.

“Camping is not going to stop,” Lang said.

Lang wishes the city could identify more appropriate places where encampments could go while the city works on building affordable housing.

The city says they are getting a lot of complaints about the Green Lake encampment.

The city’s navigation team is in the process of reaching out to the people who live in the tents, offering services and shelter elsewhere.

For a complete removal, the city however has to prove a number of things, which includes criminal activity, trash issues and an overall safety threat to the neighborhood.