SEATTLE -- It doesn’t matter where you look in the Puget Sound, you can see the area’s growing homeless problem. Tent cities, makeshift huts, trash and debris littered everywhere.
Some residents in Seattle's Green Lake neighborhood say a new homeless encampment that just popped up about a month ago makes them afraid to leave their homes.
“There have always been kids around, a lot of families,” said neighbor Elijah Wilgis.
Family-friendly, multimillion-dollar homes, and walkable describe the Green Lake neighborhood. And then, one tent popped up on 5th Avenue.
“I was knocking on neighbors' doors, telling them we’ve got to get them out,” said neighbor Tiffany Hardy-Timm.
Within a week, about a dozen tents spilled over the greenbelt or the planting strip adjacent to the southbound lanes of I-5 across from the home on 5th Avenue NE.
”It’s a little distressing to see how quickly it sprang up,” said Wilgis.
Longtime resident Wilgis says the campers brought a bad element.
“There’s people strung-out, wandering around on drugs. Huge hordes of stolen goods, like bikes and mopeds,” said Wilgis.
One neighbor, we’ll call her Sally, doesn’t want the campers to know she’s speaking out.
“My friend who lives blocks away caught one of them in their garage and his scooter had been stolen,” said neighbor 'Sally.'
Sally says she’s frustrated because one time the city gave her a $90 ticket for parking her car just over the sidewalk while the city isn't doing anything about the homeless encampment.
“Here’s a ticket and I had to pay it. And 50 feet away, other citizens are allowed to live on the sidewalk,” said Sally.
Homeless camper Justin says not all of them are bad.
“We definitely don’t condone vandalism, theft or drug use,” said Justin.
But Justin admits some of that is going on in the camp, but that’s just because people are people.
“I would imagine, just like there are in them houses. There are drug users and law violations anywhere you go. It just seems like here, there are no walls to hide behind,” said Justin.
As a recovering addict, neighbor Tiffany Hardy-Timm says she now feels for the campers.
“They’re trying to get their lives going forward. It’s really cool to see,” said Hardy-Timm.
Justin and many of the other campers were once living at other sites that the city of Seattle swept and forced them to move. The city’s Navigation Team offered them spaces in city shelters and opportunities to join some of the city-sanctioned tiny house villages. But Justin refused.
“When people say no to help, we can’t allow them to victimize those of us that are following the rules,” said Sally.
Two of the neighbors say they’re hoping for a change on the Seattle City Council and to elect council members who will take a different approach to the homeless problems. They’re thinking of organizing some kind of protest or event so that homeowners have more of a voice.
The city tells Q13 News it takes action against unsanctioned camps when there are safety concerns and typically won’t sweep the camp out just because people complain.