SEATTLE -- The clock is ticking for homeless people living in an encampment near I-5 in Seattle. They were told they have to move out by midnight Friday.
The camp is no longer operated by "Nickelsville," and the city and church supporting it say it’s no longer safe.
For years, the pastor of the Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd has tried to help the homeless in Seattle. First, they hosted the Nickelsville camp on their property, then became a church sponsor of their encampment on Dearborn Street.
“Nickelsville provides a secure place for homeless people,” said the Rev. Steven Olsen, “because they have a zero tolerance policy for drugs, alcohol, any kind of abusive behavior.”
But when the people living in the camp decided to break their association with Nickelsville, the church had no choice but to pull their sponsorship. Last week, they sent a letter asking everyone to clear out by midnight Friday.
“It’s very difficult to have to make decisions like this,” Olsen said.
Mayor Ed Murray agrees, but says this step had to be taken. His office released a statement Friday, saying “he is deeply concerned and troubled by the reports of criminal and drug activity.”
Just a few months ago, the mayor declared homelessness a state of emergency in the city, and he's been taking steps to address the crisis since. On Friday, they started cleaning up an encampment underneath the Magnolia Bridge and opened up a Safe Lot in Ballard for people living in their RVs.
“I’m just so happy to have a secure place that's safe,” said Wanda Williams, who lives in her RV. “I owned my home and when mortgages went up and all haywire, I lost that. So this has been my new home.”
The pastor said been gratifying to see the progress the city has made for those without a home. He hopes shutting down the encampment on Dearborn doesn't harm those efforts.
“We want to make it very clear that this is not typical.”
The notice that was given to residents said that after midnight, they will be considered trespassers, so Seattle police could come in and force them to move.