SEATTLE — After a man was shot and killed at a homeless encampment off Aurora Avenue in Seattle, neighbors have taken their own approach to improve safety on their block.
"We held an emergency meeting talking about how [the city is] planning on clearing the encampment. Well, what's going to happen when the crews leave? What can we do to make sure the neighborhood's safe? So, we hatched a plan of putting a garden in place of the tents as soon as possible," said neighbor Liza Javier.
Roughly three weeks ago, neighbors said the encampment along their block grew to at least a few dozen tents and an estimated 50 people.
"When you drove through, people were scared,” said Javier. “People were absolutely terrified.”
Javier said the city placed notices it planned to clear the encampment after a person was shot and killed. According to Seattle police, a 38-year-old man died on July 17 after being shot at the encampment. Homicide detectives are investigating the shooting.
Neighbors obtained a permit from the city to plant the garden after the encampment was cleared.
The block saw a transformation that happened in just hours. Crews came in to clear the camp, and almost immediately after, neighbors were planting the garden. Neighbors planted five flower boxes and roughly 20 bushes.
“This is 300 times better,” said Sam Sebuwufu Seruwu, the manager of Auto Link Seattle. “Seeing flowers, flowers are usually a sign of hope.”
Neighbors have worked over the past three weeks to maintain the garden. Seruwu's business is helping supply water.
“Because if [the plants] die, the people will be back, but if they grow, hopefully, they'll have some respect," said Seruwu.
As the garden grows, neighbors hope it serves as a reminder that when it comes to the city's unhoused, Seattle has a lot of growing to do.
"Even though gardening is something we're doing to keep our neighborhood safe, the city really needs to come up with some serious policy changes to ensure everyone is safe throughout the city," said Javier.
“This is better than what was there, but there is still more to be done,” said Seruwu. “Maybe the city or other organizations can help because mental health is real. It just doesn't stop at 96th and Aurora.”
Residents created a GoFundMe page for anyone wishing to donate to the project.