• Homeless sidewalk campers: 'We appreciate Seattle's liberal vibe'

    By: Casey McNerthney , Gary Horcher

    Updated:

    Seattle police and fire responded Monday evening to a homeless “tent mansion” near the Space Needle after smoke was seen.

    But after determining it was a cook stove -- one preparing steaks and shrimp -- police and fire left without incident.

    The encampment near Third Avenue and Broad Street has been dubbed the “Tent Mansion” by people passing by. 

    One of the people living there, Melissa Burns, said she and her boyfriend came to Seattle from West Virginia because “we appreciate Seattle's liberal vibe.” 

    Burns and her boyfriend were previously contacted by Seattle’s Navigation Team -- a group of outreach workers teamed with specially trained Seattle police -- last month when they lived a block away.

    "We don't want to change our lifestyle to fit their requirements," she said.

    The city navigation team said only 37 percent of homeless people they contact accept offers of shelter.

    The city of Seattle told KIRO 7 they've gotten complaints about 400 illegal unsanctioned encampments. They say their outreach teams are stretched so thin they average removing only two to three per week.

    Burns and her boyfriend said they were told by police and firefighters that people at KIRO 7, across the street from the encampment, called for the response. KIRO 7 management reached out to all employees Monday evening and did not get information showing anyone inside the KIRO 7 building called fire or police. 

    Police have previously said people cannot legally have a BBQ on a Seattle sidewalk, citing a section in the Seattle Municipal Code.

    Officers who contacted the homeless campers on Monday did not issue citations. Officers told them said they’d contact the Navigation Team “and work with them for the three-day notice” to move, Burns said. 

    Burns and her boyfriend said they’d move along when that happens. But they don’t expect to go far – possibly two blocks away, which is similar to their last move.

    When Burns was asked earlier this month if she would accept permanent housing offers, she said she wouldn’t likely accept them.

    "We intend to stay here," she said. "This is the solution to the homeless problem. We want autonomy, right here."

    Next Up: