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Homeless camp proves tough target

A homeless encampment at 12th Street and Park Avenue will be cleared out by property owners Monday.

Again.

Reid Real Estate, which lists the property, evicted homeless people from the site two or three years ago, said Jerry Reid. The site has been a problem off and on for years, confirmed Reid, neighbors, police and code enforcement officials for the city.

Neighbors estimate anywhere from a handful to up to 30 indigents have been camping at the site, at the southeast corner of 12th and Park.

Although the site is surrounded by businesses and homes, the encampment — consisting of three separate camp sites cobbled together from trash likely found in dumpsters — is concealed by trees and dense blackberry bushes, and sits atop a hill well above most surrounding properties. The encampment is mostly out of sight, say neighbors.

Neighbors say transients occupy the site mostly in the summer, and are usually seen only in the evenings. They describe transients as mostly quiet and keeping to themselves.

The homeless disappear whenever police, property owners or the press arrive.

Ivy Berry, a resident of a home on McKenzie Avenue, a short block from the encampment, said “It concerns me. I’m wondering where they’re going to the bathroom, where their (garbage) is going.... But I feel for them. They need a place to stay too.”

Berry said she’s seen at least four adults in the encampment.

Beverly Bailey, who was visiting her son at his home on 12th Street, said she sympathizes with the homeless.

“I think it’s sad Bremerton doesn’t help people like that,” she said. “We feed the homeless every single Sunday at our church. They can’t afford the money to rent a place.... Spend a little time with the homeless and you find they’re wonderful people. They’re just down and out.”

Karol Rocens, who lives across the street from the encampment on Park, said she’s seen small children in the area.

“I hope there are no children living there now. It’s going to be winter pretty soon,” she said.

Tovi Wilkins, owner of a hairdressing salon on Park Street across from the site, said she worries about her own children.

“I’ve got seven kids,” she said. “My (teenage) daughter told me somebody hollered at her. She said ‘Mom, I don’t like walking by there.’”

Paula Templeton, manager of Wedgewood Apartments, also across the street from the encampment, said she’s not happy with the situation and that one of her tenant’s cars has been broken into.

It has not been determined homeless at the site were responsible.

Neighbors’ complaints to police and Bremerton Code Enforcement over the past few weeks have prompted the city to ask Reid to post “No Trespassing” signs and clear the encampment. Reid posted signs last Wednesday and arranged for a truck to come Monday morning.

Reid’s son and a crew of workers will throw out the debris at the site, which includes clothing and bedding, plastic tarps, office dividers used to construct a small lean-to, and other material. Reid said he will not clear trees and brush.

This solution only partially satisfied one neighboring landowner.

“The problem will continue unless the vegetation is cleared,” said the landowner, who wished to remain anonymous. “So long as there’s vegetation, (the homeless) will have a place to hide, and they’ll keep coming back.”

The man insisted prostitution and drug use were occurring at the site.

Reid said he wanted to give fair warning to the homeless, and posted a written warning for the transients to claim personal possessions before the site is cleared.

Dianne Robinson, City Council candidate for District 6, went public with the problem at an Eggs & Issues forum Sept. 26. The site is in District 5, and Mike Shepherd, incumbent councilman for that area, is aware of the problem.

“A little (encampment) like this is easy to take care of,” he said. “But the larger issue is not so easy to solve.”

Shepherd said there are other “tent cities” and the problem of the homeless “seems to be getting worse” all over the state and the nation.

Other local sites used by the homeless include a wooded area behind Lowe’s hardware in East Bremerton; and in West Bremerton, vacant lots on Summit, and a vacant spot near the water on Sheldon Boulevard.

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