Neighbors increasingly worried, want changes after shooting at Ballard encampment

SEATTLE — Increasing violence is occurring at a Seattle homeless camp, but there’s not enough response from the city. That’s what a business group, the Ballard Alliance, states the neighborhood is dealing with.

Now calls are getting louder for the city to take action after a shooting injured someone staying at the park two weeks ago.

Tents at the Ballard Commons Park have been a near-permanent fixture for years. But recently, neighbors said things have changed.

“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 who declined to share her name but said she has lived in the neighborhood for 30 years.

A video shared by the Facebook group “Safe Seattle” shows a man damaging vehicles earlier this week and jumping on a Seattle police parking enforcement vehicle.

“It’s been escalating for the past couple of months, and I don’t know how much more we can take,” said Legh Burns, a Ballard resident and business owner.

Burns used to run a kids’ program called the Ballard Thrashers skateboard club at the park. But now, the park is largely unusable.

“Parents don’t want to have their kids even chaperoned in this park. Not anymore,” he said.

On Wednesday, KIRO 7′s Deedee Sun counted the park currently has more than 50 tents. A spokesperson from Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan’s office said up to 70 people unhoused live in the immediate area of the park.

“It’s about at the height of the number of tents and people,” said Mike Stewart, the executive director of Ballard Alliance.

The group stated it reached out to the city last month in early July with concerns about escalating violence at the park. Then in August, Seattle police said someone shot at another person inside a tent. The bullet grazed the victim in the head.

There have been other concerning incidents this month too.

“There was an attempted knife attack on a homeless outreach worker, and there was a man who lives in a van who was brutally attacked,” Stewart said.

The Ballard Alliance wants to see people offered services and the camp cleared out. It also wants a plan and timeline from the city.

“Enough is enough with this. We just don’t want it to escalate any further. The last thing we want to see is a fatality or homicide in this park,” Stewart said.

The mayor’s office stated Seattle Parks and Recreation actively works to clean the park regularly, and outreach teams have been contacting camp residents. A spokesperson said six people at the Ballard Commons have been referred to shelters since April and that the city is working to build more shelter space.

“The City shares the Ballard Alliance’s concern for the residents currently living unsheltered at Ballard Commons,” a spokesperson for the mayor said via email. “While it is true that this encampment is not currently a priority for removal in August, the City has invested significant resources into addressing this encampment, including ongoing outreach, cleanup, and sanitation efforts that occur on a daily basis.”

The spokesperson said the Ballard Commons Park is on a priority list and that shelter space is one of the factors the city uses in determining camp removal.

The mayor’s office added that outreach workers have made over 770 referrals to shelters so far this year citywide, with the second quarter seeing the most referrals to shelters and confirmed enrollments on record.