City of Seattle begins clearing large homeless encampment involved in drug-ring bust

SEATTLE — Officials began clearning a large homeless encampment at 10th Avenue South and Dearborn Avenue South in Seattle Monday morning.

It comes days after Seattle Police took down two drug ring operations funneling drugs and weapons to homeless camps.

The city said the camp is so large, the work could take days. Notices posted around the camp said residents must be out by Monday morning.

Seattle says the camp must go because there are serious risks -- like biohazard waste, damage to the environment, and criminal activity.

But it’s another upheaval for residents in the camp who said they were not involved with the crimes.

“We feel kind of lost right now. This was home to us,” said a young woman who didn’t want to share her name.

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Many of the residents there were packing up Sunday.

“So we don't lose anything, this is all we got,” the young woman said.

The residents are getting cleared out after Seattle police took down two drug rings last week.

One involved an encampment in Pioneer Square.  The other bust involved the 10th Avenue South and Dearborn Avenue South encampment, which includes about 50 tents and spans three city blocks.

“We were here when the SWAT team an everything came and threw the smoke bomb,” the young woman said. “I heard the gunshots and heard the police out here and I was like freaking out,” she said.

Seattle police served warrants to two tents at the encampment near the CID and recovered at least five guns – plus multiple bags of drugs.

Police believe a house nearly two miles away in the 3000 block of Beacon Avenue South was serving as the primary base of operations.

“That was kind of like a satellite office for their operation and it was easier for them to move drugs into the community,” said Sean Whitcomb of the Seattle Police Department. “We’re going after those higher level dealers who are preying on some of our most vulnerable people - our own homeless,” he said.

A man at the encampment admits he's a user and said he got hooked on Oxycodone after a leg injury.

But he said despite the hardships, he calls the space home and getting cleared out only makes life harder.

“Rats running around, you think I want this life? No. But we have no choice,” he said. “Every time I move, I lose everything. Everything,” he said.

The city said it has a place in shelters for everyone at this site that the city will also offer people here the option to store their stuff.

The city will also put up a temporary mesh fence to try and to keep the space clear after the work is done.