Shane Harms/ Ballard News-Tribune
Over 30 bags of garbage was removed by from the Ballard Jungle site last month. The heap had been there for weeks and neighbors voiced concern.

Army Corps responds to homeless encampment at Ballard Locks

After a recent story was published about a trash pile accruing as a result of an unsanctioned homeless encampment at the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks, a growing conversation has evolved on the Ballard News-Tribune website, and the Army Corps of Engineers has entered that conversation.

Three weeks ago the BNT reported that a pile of over 30 bags of garbage was building up at the “Ballard Jungle” near the Ballard Locks. The encampment is located on top of a slope running between the Ballad Locks fence and the railroad tracks, which is an easement. The Army Corps of Engineers owns and operates the Ballard Locks but does not own the property where campers are living. Campers there told the BNT that they had an agreement with the City to place their trash near the tracks for pick-up. The City confirmed the agreement, however the trash pile had not been picked up in over a month and neighbors were complaining. The City treats the trash there as illegal dumping, and Seattle Public Utilities’ Illegal Dumping unit responds when there are complaints.

Since the article was published the trash pile has been removed, however the conversation is still evolving on the article webpage with support and criticism for the City’s actions and homelessness in general.

Emily Thousand said that a housing-first approach is the solution to solving the homeless issue.

“Housing. First. Everything else flows from that. Study after study proves this. We waste more time arresting them, cleaning their waste, doing "sweeps", spending money on studies, etc. etc. when all we need is housing. Look at the Tiny Village in Ballard - that didn't do ANY of the things everyone was claiming it would do. Nothing bad happened. Only good,” wrote Thousand.

There were more than a few people who disagreed with Thousand’s opinion.

“Not opposed to housing first at all but that doesn't mean that people who live by the Ballard Locks should be exempt from the law. It's not OK to live in public and throw dirty heroin needles on a public sidewalk or in the grass at the Commons. It's also not OK to leave trash, human and other, in and around public places. And so forth. They should be applied the same irrespective of circumstance. This is clearly is not the case,” wrote Mike O’Birdbrain.

“I'm sick to death of the homeless in Ballard, sick to death of it. There were years I had compassion and helped where I could, and even got to know my local RV campers, but the new homeless here deserve ZERO "compassion,” wrote Steve Valet.

“I'm sick to death of the double standards where I get a freaking parking ticket in my driveway for $48 but up the street 10 RV's sit with expired tabs and human waste on the ground. … They are addicts, aggressive, thieves, drug pushers, leaving mounds of garbage and shit everywhere they squat in our neighborhoods.”

Furthermore, one commenter criticized the mayor for not doing enough to address the homeless issue in Seattle.

“Thank you Ballard News Tribune for caring enough to respond. It’s a shame this is such a low priority on the Mayor’s agenda. Rainbow crosswalks seem to top the list.”

Mayor Murray recently announced he appointed a Director of Homelessness as well as an Unsanctioned Encampments Cleanup Protocols Task Force.

Other commenters asked what the Army Corps is doing to address the Ballard Jungle since the encampment neighbors their facility.

“Isn't that encampment on Federal Property? Perhaps the Corps of Engineers could get some MPs from Lewis-McChord to kick the bums out. Or maybe U.S. Marshalls could do it,” wrote Davell.

Indeed, the question of how the Army Corps is addressing the issue is worth considering, and so the BNT asked them.

“The Locks are one of Seattle's top attractions and we want visitors to see the Locks as a clean, safe place. Having the trash in the area does not give us, or Seattle, that image. We do get complaints about the dirty and trash-filled city-owned parking areas outside the gates. Often the drainage grates are clogged and the handicapped parking spots are unusable when we it rains. Our staff passes any concerns addressed to our employees along to the city,” said William Dowel Public Affairs Office of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

“This is a federal facility and security is a concern. More than 1.3 million visitors come to the locks annually and we want and need to ensure their and our employee’s safety. … We work closely with the city and they are aware of our concerns.”

Dowell revealed that the Army Ballard Locks rangers maintain active outreach with the campers and that they have an ongoing relationship with the homeless at the site.

“The campers are friendly and respectful when on federal property and several regulars self-police other campers. Our rangers take a proactive approach, getting to know and talking to the campers who come on federal property. As a result, many of the regular campers look out for the project and self-police the others,”

Look to the Ballard News-Tribune for more stories covering the Ballard Jungle.

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