SEATTLE – Heavy machinery, Seattle police officers, and a large dump truck cover a portion of Fremont near the famous Troll. It’s day two of a three-part homeless encampment sweep.
Crews already cleared part of the unsanctioned camp Monday and Tuesday morning. Now, it’s on to the green spaces off Aurora Avenue just past the bridge. There’s still plenty of tents and people in the medians off the busy road.
Under the Fremont Bridge, it’s always a photo shoot.
“We’re just on a local tour,” said tourist Jennifer Warren.
Andrea Dias from Malaysia joined the Warrens on tour.
“It’s just like on TV,” said Dias.
But what the movies don’t show you is the growing homeless encampment around the Fremont Troll now in the midst a city sanctioned sweep. Cleaning up needles and drug paraphernalia just left behind makes the job dangerous for the city’s Navigation Team, including Seattle Police Sgt. Eric Zerr.
“There were several overdoses that we had here. The Seattle Fire Department was called out because of fentanyl,” said Zerr.
Rats, feces, and trash covered the area. That led to countless complaints by homeowners nearby. Will Lemke with the city’s Navigation Team says he shares their frustrations.
“With over 400 unmanaged encampments it takes time for us to get there. We also have protocols in place to make sure the rights of individuals that are living unsheltered are respected,” said Lemke.
There’s one lone hold out in one portion of the encampment surrounded by police officers.
“They’re people like you. Don’t wall yourself off to them,” said Zerr.
Some accepted city shelter beds, others declined only to live outdoors somewhere else.
“At the end of the day, individuals living outdoors, that’s not illegal, and so there’s no law enforcement avenue right now to arrest people so to speak,” said Lemke.
So the city cleans this area up only to have hundreds of other camps growing. But at least for now, the Fremont Troll will be free of the encampment.
“I think it makes the area more attractive for tourists to come by,” said tourist Isabel Warren.
But Dias wants people to remember compassion.
“It’s good for us to be aware that even with all this beauty there are people who need help,” said Dias.
Some campers declined help altogether, others found a new home in the tiny house village in Georgetown. Some went to Presbyterian Church's 24/7 enhanced shelter, where people can bring their pets, partners, and possessions with them.