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Controversial tent encampment cleared from Ballard Commons Park

On Tuesday morning the remaining dozen or so people living in Ballard Commons Park were either offered temporary shelter or told to move along. During the peak of the pandemic there were over 100 people residing in the park, and more who slept on the sidewalks next to the library across the street.

The tent encampment at Ballard Commons Park was one of the many that sprung up in Seattle during the pandemic. Outreach workers say they’ve been at the site for months offering people experiencing homelessness some sort of shelter. Most people did accept a referral to a shelter, workers say, and some got a spot at one of the newly opened tiny house villages in the University District and Bitterlake.

On Monday, the day before the clearing, Truth Smith was walking around the park and offering other people help with packing up their tents. Smith lived at Ballard Commons for the last nine months. He says he got put on a waiting list to move into a tiny house, otherwise he’d already be packed up, too.

“Yes, immediately. I’d move into a tiny house today,” he said. “Yeah if one was available right now.”

The park was cleared after months of safety complaints from neighbors. There have been reports of fires and fights at the park. Smith said he fears being robbed when he steps away from his tent and carries a hatchet for protection. This summer the water spray at the park was closed to children because of the encampment.

Smith said he feels torn about having to leave the park. On one hand he sees families pass the park daily and wants “the community to have its park back.” But he also isn’t sure where to go now without a shelter referral.

“I’ll be in the breeze somewhere,” he said. “I'll have a tent somewhere until I can get some housing.”

The same park was cleared of people experiencing homelessness back in May 2020. It’s estimated that more than 12,000 people in King County are experiencing homelessness.

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