Ballard Commons Park cleared of encampment Tuesday

SEATTLE — Ballard Commons Park closed Tuesday to clear out what remained of a homeless encampment.

The City of Seattle says they’ve ramped up efforts with its partners over the last six weeks on “intensified outreach and engagement efforts” at the park, with the goal of getting people into long-term shelter and on the path to permanent housing.

“In August we created a census of everyone living in the park, in September we created a needs assessment to match people with shelter that was right for them, and in October we began moving people inside,” said Councilmember Dan Strauss. “We continued moving people inside in November and December, and this is how we can remove an encampment without pushing people down the street or into the neighborhood.”

Safety concerns and numerous incidents at the encampment over the past six months sparked calls for the camp to be cleared and for people living there to be helped.

“I’ve seen a level of violence and malevolence the past six to eight months that really hasn’t existed before,” said a Ballard resident in August, who declined to share her name but said she has lived in the neighborhood for 30 years.

Calls have ranged from tent fires and assaults to public safety concerns.

“It’s dangerous. It’s very dangerous,” said Marilyn Suarez, who lives in the neighborhood. “When you live here and you see how it’s gone down, it’s sad,” Suarez said.

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Officials said Seattle firefighters were called to the park 42 times over the past six months and Seattle police responded to more than 100 incidents in the area.

“The encampment over here is a mess and I feel bad for these people,” said Jeff Wise, who works in Ballard. “We need to find some way to help them instead of kicking them from one park to another.”

At least 66 people at the park had accepted housing or shelter and another 60 were referred to shelters by the Human Services Department’s HOPE team, as of Tuesday.

When the park closes, rehabilitation of the park will include rodent control, replacement of damaged vegetation and other maintenance, according to officials.

New fencing will also be installed and Seattle Parks and Recreation crews will work to clean up the mess and address any environmental impacts.