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caption: George Kerns is moving to another homeless camp. He knows it won't be the last time he's told to move on
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George Kerns is moving to another homeless camp. He knows it won't be the last time he's told to move on
KUOW Photo/Kate Walters

Seattle shuts down another homeless encampment

Work crews began clearing a homeless camp in Seattle's Sodo neighborhood Tuesday morning.

The city says the camp has become a public health and safety hazard. The closure also comes on the heels of two arrests for rape and prostitution in the camp.

The small strip of land at the corner of Royal Brougham Way and Airport Way South is known as The Field. But as residents packed up their belongings, it looked more like a mud pit littered with debris.

Police officers surrounded the perimeter as city officials and outreach workers told residents they had to go.

They gave offers of temporary shelter beds and storage for belongings. Residents have known for several days that the city planned to shut the camp down, but not all of them know where they’ll go next.

George Kerns has lived in the camp for close to a year. He has a cooker, a tarp, several plastic containers and a wagon. The city is going to help him move his belongings, but Kerns isn't entirely sure where he's going.

He doesn't want to stay in a shelter — he tried that once before and got bed bugs. So he'll probably go to another encampment, he said. But Kerns knows this isn't the last time he'll be told to move on.

"It's gonna happen again. It's a repeated, vicious cycle. I woke up this morning at 6 o'clock and realized there's 20 to 30 officers out here and was definitely shocked. I feel like this is a waste of money," Kerns said.

City officials say some residents have accepted offers of shelter and storage.

Sola Plumacher, with the city’s Human Services Department, said they’re trying to meet the needs of residents where they can.

“We're trying to find different solutions: Motel vouchers are being looked at, two people are interested in transportation back home, so working to figure that out as well," Plumacher said.

Officials said most of the campers had left by the time the eviction deadline came around on Tuesday. There were an estimated 28 people left as crews sorted through tents and belongings in a steady rain.

Advocates and some camp residents appealed to the City Council Monday to stop the sweep. The appeal was unsuccessful.

The city anticipates cleanup will take several days.

The camp was slated to be a temporary site for some residents who were evicted from the Jungle homeless camp under Interstate 5 at the end of 2016.

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