Proposal would clear longtime Green River homeless encampment

King County Councilmember submits legislation for property near Kent, Auburn.

A proposal by King County Councilmember Reagan Dunn aims to clear a longtime homeless encampment in an unincorporated area along the Green River between Kent and Auburn.

The camp sits on county property in a wooded area along 94th Place South, across from the Pea Patch Playfields, 26400 Green River Road.

“The conditions we are seeing at the Green River encampment are deplorable and inhumane — littered with human feces, infested with pests, and filled with stolen goods,” Dunn said in a June 28 media release. “This is no way for anyone to live, and certainly not fair to the surrounding community that deserves a neighborhood that is safe and clean.

“To make progress, we must start setting boundaries on what is acceptable, address the root causes of homelessness head on and get folks into shelters and into treatment. This legislation gives us the opportunity to learn the best way to do that.”

Currently, King County does not clear homeless encampments on county property or elsewhere and has no procedures in place for doing so, according to the media release. This legislation would create an interagency task force including at minimum the Department of Community and Health Services, the Local Services’ Roads Division, and the Sheriff’s Office, working in collaboration with the King County Regional Homelessness Authority.

The task force would be charged with designing a method of response to current and future encampments that includes procedures for cleaning up the sites and connecting the homeless residents with shelter and services, Dunn said.

This clearing would serve as a pilot project for how King County government can remove various encampments in rural areas going forward. Dunn, whose District 9 covers a large portion of East King County and Southeast King County, proposed the Green River site as a pilot project because of its size and longevity. Not only is it the largest encampment in unincorporated King County, but has drawn complaints from the surrounding community for over three years.

Dunn toured the Green River encampment June 28 and said he witnessed massive piles of trash as well as human waste along a stream that flows into the Green River, creating concerns of contamination. In addition, dozens of vehicles were accumulated at the side of the road in what appears to be a chop shop operation, and $130,000 worth of equipment was found that had been stolen late last year from a local youth soccer team that kept the equipment at a nearby ball field, according to the media release.

King County’s 2020 Point in Time Count found that 64% of people who are chronically homeless report battling a substance use disorder and 73% of King County’s chronically homeless population reported battling a mental illness.

Conditions at homeless encampments have recently been shown to be dangerous, with three fatal shootings occurring at various camp locations in the last week, according to the media release.

Dunn’s legislation will be heard in the King County Council’s Law, Justice, Health and Human Services Committee in the coming weeks. If approved by the committee, it would move to the full council for consideration.

Trash and various debris at a Green River homeless encampment in unincorporated King County along 94th Place South between Kent and Auburn. COURTESY PHOTO, King County

Trash and various debris at a Green River homeless encampment in unincorporated King County along 94th Place South between Kent and Auburn. COURTESY PHOTO, King County