RV ‘safe zones’ for homeless in Seattle ignite more controversy as many worry about lawlessness

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SEATTLE -- Many who live and work near the designated safe zones say they are worried they are not safe enough while the city struggles to find a solution to the homeless epidemic.

Cooking fuel and a portable heater caused an RV to go up in flames Thursday. Two people inside the RV were rushed to the hospital with severe burns.

“They were screaming, you know? They were in pain, they had pretty severe burns,” friend Jarrett Schickling said.

The city says the fire appears accidental but it brings up the controversy again surrounding the RVs.

The lot on 15th Avenue West and West Armory Way in the Interbay neighborhood is one of three designated safe zones for RVs -- a temporary solution until the city figures out a long-term solution to homelessness.

“Parking you in a lot really isn’t helping you,” Phillip Loyd said.

Loyd works next to the Ballard safe zone. He says it's a trash cycle of hypodermic needles and human feces that never ends for city crews.

“I’m watching four to five guys cleaning it up (at) $20 plus an hour, and watching it become a mess again,” Loyd said.

Loyd says many in Seattle believe police are going easy on the people breaking the law.

“That is simply not true,” City Council member Sally Bagshaw said.

During a City Council meeting Wednesday, Bagshaw denied claims that the city directed police not to enforce the laws.

“I have no idea where that rumor started or how that got going,” Bagshaw said.

The solution will have to be as diverse as the people who live in these communities.

“I will always be a heroin addict, I will always be an alcoholic,” Colleen Coberly said.

Coberly showed us inside her packed RV. She’s says she’s on methadone now, trying to kick her heroin habit.

“Being here and having a spot ... is a lot to me, that means everything to me,” Coberly said.

She's desperate to find a permanent spot to park her RV while many residents and businesses nearby worry about what they call lawlessness in their neighborhoods. .

“Some parts of Ballard are worse than others but it is severe, people are seriously questioning whether they can stay here,” said one man.

Seattle Police also said they enforce whether someone is homeless or not.

The city plans to move RVs from two of the designated safe zones into one large safe lot in Ballard by next Friday. The RVs will be allowed to stay there for six months, buying the city more time to find a long-term solution.

 

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