SEATTLE — It’s been a troubling past week at Albert Davis Park in Seattle’s Lake City neighborhood. Two people were shot at a homeless encampment on Thursday. Then Friday, a series of propane explosions led to a fire at the park, burning up a tree and several tents.
The city of Seattle stated the fire department has responded to the park six times over the course of a single week.
“I woke up to my husband yelling, ‘They set the park on fire!’ And I’m like, ‘What?’” said Shannon Ellis-Brock, who lives across the street. “It was huge.”
As for the shooting, Seattle police said according to witnesses, someone went up to the door of a recreational vehicle at the park and shot a man inside. Another victim showed up at the hospital. Both survived.
“None of us have felt safe living here in a very long time. It’s scary,” Ellis-Brock said. “It’s sad it got to that point.”
KIRO 7 reported on the troubles at the homeless encampment at Albert Davis Park in October 2020. At that point, neighbors said they reached out to the city more than 100 times. Complaints from neighbors included rampant drug deals, prostitution, people blocking the street, garbage and trespassing.
Now more than half a year later, the city agrees the camp must go. Outreach workers posted flyers on Tuesday, saying the property of camping residents must be cleared by May 6.
The park will be closed from May 6-13 for cleanup and maintenance.
“I didn’t personally believe it until today when I actually saw the signs,” Ellis-Brock said. “It’s a huge relief.”
“It does not feel good when there’s a shooting and explosion. And you’re like, ‘Thank God. They have to do something now,’” said Jimi Hightower, another neighbor.
A city spokesperson said in a statement that contracted outreach teams have been working to get people into shelters and on a path toward permanent housing for months, and crews intensified those efforts this week.
The statement read, “Since April 22, preliminary data shows there have been 4 referrals to shelter from the Albert Davis Park vicinity.”
Kevin Jauhola, who was at the park on Wednesday, said he was homeless at a location near the park for about a year and recently accepted housing.
“On the other hand, I know what it’s like being stuck in the whirlpool,” Jauhola said. He said a series of bad financial decisions, a divorce, the death of his parents and medical struggles all led to him becoming homeless.
Jauhola said many refuse services because of rules. He said he has to abide by a 10 p.m. curfew and must have no visitors.
“I’m a 56-year-old adult. I don’t need people keeping track of my time schedule,” he said. “A lot of friends of mine would get out of Seattle housing. They’d rather be out here. This is something I found myself — is the freedom out here.”
The city also stated another Seattle park, Madrona Park, will be cleared soon. Crews are doing outreach now, and stuff there must be removed this week.
A full statement from the city of Seattle:
“After a series of public safety incidents, the City has requested that outreach efforts at Albert Davis Park intensify this week with the goal of getting all who are onsite situated into shelter and on a path towards a permanent housing solution.
Seattle Parks and Recreation (Parks) staff posted will post a notice yesterday, May 4, that any remaining belongings must be removed by Thursday, May 6.
In the last six months, the Seattle Fire Department and the Seattle Police Department responded to Albert Davis Park or the general area over 90 times. SPD responded to 47 calls including disturbances, domestic violence, theft, prowler, the shooting, and other suspicious or potentially dangerous activity at the playground. SFD responded at least 44 times including illegal burns, tent or vehicle fires, and emergency medical response.
The HOPE Team, a City of Seattle program within the Human Services Department that coordinates homelessness outreach and referrals to shelter, asked city contracted outreach providers on Monday, May 3, to intensify their efforts to those living unhoused at Albert Davis Park. City contracted outreach providers have been visiting the park regularly for months to connect with people who are unhoused and to offer shelter and other resources. Outreach providers, in partnership with the HOPE Team, have identified 16 individuals, as of May 4, who have been residing in the park long-term.
Since April 22, preliminary data shows there have been 7 referrals to shelter from the Albert Davis Park vicinity. Resources being offered by outreach providers such as, Seattle Indian Center, at the park have included enhanced shelter and tiny homes. These shelter resources offer wraparound services such as behavioral and mental health, case management, and housing navigation, to help end a persons experience with homelessness.
Seattle Parks and Recreation staff will store personal items in accordance with City policy. People can retrieve their items by calling 206-459-9949 and the City will work with individuals to make arrangements to deliver items.
Albert Davis Park will close to the public starting on May 6, and will reopen on May 13. This closure will allow Parks and Recreation staff to address deferred maintenance and any portions of the park that are damaged.”