Fremont encampment removed; long supporter says sweeps aren't working

FREMONT, Wash. — A homeless camp swept, was the first of three sweeps in Seattle's Fremont neighborhood.

Now a longtime supporter of the sweeps says they're making the crisis worse.

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Seattle's Homeless Navigation team cleared out nine people living in an encampment just south of the Fremont Troll.

By late Monday, just three of those people swept out accepted approved shelter.

There is more work for the Navigation Team to do to completely clean the encampment out. Among the things they will be cleaning up are discarded hypodermic needles.

This was once again moving day for Sarah Clark and her partner.

"We had just gotten notice from the prior place we were at, too," said Clark. "So most folks have been here for a lot longer."

Indeed the city's Homeless Navigation Team says it counted about 20 tents here. But when the team arrived this morning, most were empty, most of those living here already gone.

Their work to remove the encampment under the watchful eye of volunteer observers like Carol Isaac.

"I've seen it where it was handled much more harshly," said Isaac. "This was a little nicer. I'm hoping that they're getting something long term."

"It's actually making the problem worse in my opinion," said David Preston of Safe Seattle, once a big proponent of the encampment sweeps.

Preston now says the sweeps are failing in their primary mission of finding permanent housing for those living on the streets.

"If we have an encampment that's relatively stable and is not causing big problems for the neighborhood, we should consider leaving those folks in place,"  he says, "while the Nav teams interact with them and offer them shelter and treatment."

By "relatively stable," he says he means "not growing and not presenting a problem for the surrounding neighborhood."

Sarah Clark was asked what she felt about being moved again.

"There's no other options, again," she said. "I have PTSD from a lot of reasons so our only option they're offering us is a shelter where we're separated at night. And that's not going to work for people."

She and her partner need to be together.

"Yeah," she said. "Period."

Not surprisingly, there are plenty of Fremont residents who are happy this encampment is being swept away. They have been complaining to the city for months.

And the news is getting better for them. Two more encampments, both along Aurora Avenue, are slated to be removed in the coming days, too.

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