First camp connected to debris thrown onto I-90 cleared, second camp sweep planned for next week

Authorities cleared out a homeless camp along I-90 over public safety concerns for drivers after hundreds of debris-throwing incidents were reported on local freeways.

There were some demonstrators along 23rd Avenue South Thursday morning, protesting the clearing of a camp where people experiencing homelessness had sought shelter. The protests were small and peaceful. 

However, peaceful is not how residents of the camp described the eviction as they received only a few days’ notice before the Washington State Patrol took action.

Some residents told Q13 News they had been living among the structure for 3 years, others said they called the area home for much longer. 

Thursday morning, a sea of high-visibility safety vests worn by crews from state and city agencies made it clear that moving day had come. 

"I’m going to find another spot and stay positive," said resident Jerome.

The man said he considers his neighbors like family and moving on such a tight deadline caused stress. 

However, the sweep was a matter of public safety according to the Washington State Patrol.

Earlier this week, troopers arrested a man accused of tossing material onto I-90. Debris and rocks slammed down onto the travel lanes, damaging cars and startling drivers. Nearly 200 similar incidents were reported since the first of the year. Troopers failed to catch another person suspected of throwing material into a driver’s path earlier this week.

Due to the continued threats for drivers and people experiencing homelessness immediately adjacent to the freeway pushed state officials to close the area.  

"Our mission is public safety and we are going to do what’s necessary to keep the public safe," said WSP’s Chris Loftis.

"Some of these people I consider my friends," said Martin Lloyd who lives near the area. "I’m very unhappy about this."

Lloyd says those living unsheltered here are not criminals and should not be treated likewise. He also and complained they are paying for the actions of others while not getting help for their own issues. 

"The people who have been hurt by throwing rocks, they have family members coming here to retaliate," said Jerome. 

He insisted both he and his neighbors tried to eject the troublemakers but the danger continued.

After hanging signs that warned of an impending eviction, Thursday morning’s deadline came as promised. Those living in the camp were offered services and shelter but not everyone chose to participate.

The deadline for WSDOT and WSP, the danger facing those traveling on I-90 had to be addressed as quickly as possible.

"We can’t solve the issues surrounding homelessness, we are a transportation agency," WSDOT spokesperson Bart Treece said. "We are looking at roadway safety and this is why we are here. There is a safety hazard we need to take care of immediately."

Crews from WSDOT will evaluate the area to determine if repairs are needed. Afterwards, the agency planned to install boulders intended to dissuade others from attempting to use the area as a camp. 

Another small encampment along the Rainier Avenue South exit at I-90 could also face eviction sometime next week.

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