• Ballard residents organizing against homeless camp

    By: Nick McGurk

    Updated:

    BALLARD, Wash. - Ballard residents say they were "blindsided" over plans to put a homeless camp in their Ballard neighborhood, not far from the Locks.

    More than 300 people have signed a petition directed at the city council titled "Don't tell Ballard to shut up.”

    Neighbor Marty McOmber started the petition because he says neighbors never got a say in the city’s decision to locate one of its three preferred sites for temporary homeless encampments in Ballard.

    "This isn't just a Ballard issue. People in Queen Anne, people in West Seattle, people across the city should be worried that the city is actually imposing something like this on a neighborhood, without any public engagement,” said McOmber.

    Other neighbors have serious concerns about the location itself.

    The lot, owned by Seattle City Light, sits near a bar, Sloop Tavern, and not far from a medical marijuana dispensary and a liquor store.

    "Not wanting to stereotype, but I think it's commonly accepted that many homeless people struggle with substance abuse,” said Ballard resident Ben Milgrom.

    He says he couldn’t believe last week’s announcement of the three locations.

    The others are in Interbay and south of SoDo.

    In Ballard, more than 50 people will stay in tents starting as early as September.

    "Bamboozled, flimflammed, like it happened behind closed doors,” said Milgrom of his reaction to the plans.

    But Ballard resident Alice Woldt says that the homeless need a place to live.

    "Give it a chance,” said Woldt.

    She says years back her church hosted a tent city.

    "They discipline those people if they are out of line, and we have not had those kinds of problems,” said Woldt.

    Camp organizers tell KIRO 7 they screen those who live there.

    They have a zero tolerance policy for drug and alcohol rules -- and the camps have their own security.

    "The most that an encampment could exist on a public property would be two years in total,” said Jason Johnson, Human Services Department Deputy Director.

    Before that happens, though, the property needs remediation.

    Seattle City Light tells KIRO 7 it will costs more than $145,000 to remove chemicals like lead and asbestos from the property.

    They will also need to cut down a Korean Mountain Ash tree on the site as part of the process.

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