Homeless camps along state highways causing major problems

by: Chris Legeros Updated:

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SEATTLE - It is illegal to camp on state property along highways, but if you drive through Seattle on Interstate 5, you will see tents perched over, under, and alongside the roadway. Those camps can be dangerous places for transportation workers.

Jim McBride is a WSDOT maintenance superintendent. He said, "We've had people that have been assaulted and threatened." Just last month, one worker was cut by a homeless man who attacked him with a knife along Myers Way South. He was not seriously injured, but state troopers are now escorting transportation crews when they post "no trespassing" signs at the homeless camps or do cleanup work.

Some of the people living in tents admit they've struggled with drugs or alcohol. Jacob Pinion said, "I got under here because of a nasty habit." Others said they haven't been successful getting low-income housing because they've spent time in jail. A man named Michael said, "They always turn you away as soon as they find out you got a record."

Lt. Mike Rupert of the State Patrol pointed out the hazards of living next to the interstate. He said, "Over the last four years, we've had six pedestrians hit and killed." There have also been complaints by passing motorists that the homeless are giving themselves sponge baths outside, in full view of traffic. Heaps of garbage, human waste and hypodermic syringes are scattered everywhere.

WSDOT's Jim McBride said, "Just in the Metro area last year, we spent over a quarter of a million dollars cleaning up homeless debris and fixing fences." He said that's money taken away from patching potholes and fixing signs and doing all those other jobs that should be done on state highways.