SEATAC, Wash. – Alarming statistics recently released by the King County Medical Examiner's Office show a record number of homeless people in the county died last year.
The report says 169 homeless people died in 2017 -- that's 30 more than the year before.
The majority of homeless deaths are among people between the ages of 25 and 64.
Many are dying either from natural causes, or from drug overdoses while nearly half of the deaths happened in Seattle. One of the reasons why people go homeless in the first place is because their rent gets too high or their home is sold out from under them.
That's what's happening to 170 people facing eviction in SeaTac.
There's a legal battle brewing between the Firs Mobile Home Park residents who want to stay, and the landowner who wants to build a motel there instead. Many residents worry they could end up homeless if they're forced out.
The mobile home park is in a prime location; it’s a stone’s throw from the airport, and light rail and development is springing up around it.
According to a Seattle Times report, people there own the homes and rent the land, but now they’re organizing and have legal help to fight eviction.
“Most people here are like a big family,” said Firs resident Martha Zamora.
The property owner wants to develop his land to make room for a motel but that means dozens of trailers and families would have to find a new home.
“In the night I’m not sleeping,” said Firs Homeowners Association President Cruz Medina. “I’ve got too much problem over here.”
“For people like us with low income, it’s going to be hard to find a place,” said Zamora.
Zamora worries her neighbors would likely require public assistance if they’re forced to move into more expensive housing nearby – or even worse.
“Some people are going to go to the homeless,” she said.
But a series of legal challenges have stopped the development and neighbors are galvanized to fight for their own future.
“We want the opportunity to buy the land,” said Zamora.
Lawmakers in Olympia could help these neighbors do just that. The Seattle Times reports a $2.5 million grant by legislators could help other public housing agencies come up with the nearly $11 million price tag to pay for what the property is worth.
Until then, neighbors are leaning on each other and hoping development doesn’t tear apart their community – or leave their neighbors evicted and without a home.
“If you were forced to leave, where would you go?” asked Q13 News reporter Steve Kiggins.
“I don’t know,” said Medina. “Over here is too expensive.”
Attempts to reach Firs management seeking comment were not immediately successful.