City removes homeless camp near Seattle’s Fremont Troll that was site of overdoses

Posted on March 27, 2019

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The city of Seattle has removed a large, unauthorized homeless encampment near the famed Fremont Troll sculpture that was the site of several drug overdoses this year.

City officials have also pledged to prevent the encampment from reforming, according to an email to a Fremont resident from Deputy Mayor David Moseley obtained by The Seattle Times.

“Our intent is to make sure that people do not relocate to this site,” Moseley wrote in the email Thursday, responding to concerns about the camp. “To accomplish this we have posted the area and officers will visit the site daily and move on anyone that has returned. Now that the area has been cleaned it is our intent to hold the area.”

Seattle regularly cleans up and removes homeless encampments, only for people to return within a matter of days or hours. Officials and community members have long debated the effectiveness of the strategy, particularly because of the limited availability of housing and desirable shelter beds.

The cleanup of the site began Monday and was completed Thursday. The camp sprawled over a large area, with tents covering medians at North 38th Street and Aurora Avenue North and an embankment that slopes down to the street level below the Aurora Bridge, just east of the troll.

Following the cleanup, many paper signs were posted on trees throughout the area, citing two city codes: one noting a written permit is required to make use of a public space; and another warning that people could be arrested for interfering with city employees or police officers working at the site.

Mark Prentice, spokesman for Mayor Jenny Durkan, said in an email Friday that current city protocol for dealing with encampments allows the city to monitor recently-cleaned areas to ensure new camps don’t replace them.

The city has taken similar steps with other large encampments in the past, like the cleanup of a site in the Myers Way greenbelt last fall, said Will Lemke, spokesman for the Navigation Team, a collection of police officers and outreach workers who help connect people in the camps to resources and facilitate cleanups.

A series of overdoses

On the morning of Jan. 17, 911 dispatchers received a call about a drug overdose in the camp at North 38th and Aurora. Then came another call and another.

In all, seven overdoses were reported between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m., five at the encampment.

Two were reported a few blocks away, in the 3800 block of Stone Way, said Kristin Tinsley, spokeswoman for the Seattle Fire Department. At least one of the victims was inside an apartment complex, said James Apa, spokesman for Public Health – Seattle & King County.

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