An area at the base of Capitol Hill a Seattle Police officer recently called a ” a no man’s land populated by the homeless, mental cases, drug addicts and sundry criminals” is getting a clean-up. Wednesday, WSDOT said it is planning five I-5 sweeps to clear out debris and refuse that builds up from the population of people that choose — or have no choice but — to live in the areas hidden away along the interstate.
The August 10th WSDOT clean-ups include the Pine overpass, below Harborview, east of the James St off ramp, Yesler at 8th Ave, and I-5/Jackson.
At the Pine overpass, the chain-link fence erected by WSDOT to keep people out from under the street above I-5 is permanently bowed from people crawling over the top. In the shadows can be seen cushions and discarded sheets and blankets, garbage and the occasional person moving in and out of the site. Activity tends to be limited during the day when police are more likely to take note of the trespassers. It can be a dangerous area as this recent assault report and accidents like this fall attest.
The clean-ups are irregularly scheduled and seem to be a product of when the various involved agencies can make time to clear the spaces of everything from garbage to human waste to drug paraphernalia and needles. You can report issues to WSDOT’s maintenance team here.
A WSDOT representative said the need for a Pine overpass clean-up became clear last week when SPD responded to a man found dead in the area near Minor and Pine. CHS posted about the man’s death here. A person who works with homeless in the area said Jeff died of an existing heart condition — the police report on the incident notes that he was a heroin user and that there were “many discarded needles, ‘cook cans’ and crack pipes” at the scene when the man was found dead by a woman also living in the overpass area on the morning of August 4th.
As part of the sweep process, SPD makes contact with people who have been living in the closed-off areas and will tell them they need to clear out. Sometimes, East Precinct will even post flyers prior to a clean-up, SPD tells us.
CHS learned of the Pine clean-up via this week’s Twitter-based media event that featured two East Precinct bike officers tweeting from their beat.
Not everything about the outreach to people under the overpasses is goodwill, of course. Often, the officers will make arrests as people are checked for warrants and the “safety” of the area is assessed.
Once an area is cleared of people, the actual clean-up work falls to the Department of Corrections which is contracted by WSDOT to handle the dirty job. With workers trained in handling potentially dangerous drug refuse and human waste, DOC crews will spend the day clearing the areas of debris. WSDOT will also eventually fix the chain link fence but it will inevitably be bowed again.