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Homeless shack villages: A business owner’s point of view

Since the arrival of Aloha Village and all that comes with a low-barrier shack encampment, my auto shop’s backlog has gone from a month and a half, down to a few days. I can assure you, it is not the customer service that has changed. Located on the corner of John Street and Aurora Avenue North, my customers no longer feel as safe as they did in the past coming to and from my shop.

The increasing number of individuals loitering in front of my business creates an unwelcoming environment that prevents new customers from wanting to come in and makes past customers uneasy to come back. Behaviors such as public intoxication lead to inevitable aggressive behavior that creates the situation where customers feel unsafe.

Drug use, panhandling, and an upsetting increase in litter are additional examples of the behaviors that are creating a lawless environment that negatively impacts my business and others like mine. Drug dealers now target the area, who feel comfortable enough to do their trade right in front of mine, causing an unavoidable destructive chain of cause and effect.

The encampments have made it clear they will remove individuals who take part in illicit activities inside. If they do what they have set out to do, this brings the drug use right to the front doors of my business, and others around me. The reality of the situation has become regular encounters with dirty needles scattered across the streets and the park, in reach of a curious tiny hand or an unknowing stepping foot. However, if these individuals are not removed, the encampment becomes a safe haven for drug abuse. Either way, this is a lose-lose situation.

In addition to the dangers of increasing drug use around our businesses, burglaries have increased and the amount of car break-ins surrounding Aloha Village has skyrocketed astronomically. So much so, even people visiting the area ask to park their vehicles on my lot because they do not feel comfortable leaving their cars on the nearby streets, or to simply walk to and from their cars at all.

Consequently, encampments like Aloha Village are filled with a large majority of people with serious mental illnesses and substance abuse problems who need help — help they are not receiving inside or outside of the encampment under current city policy. If this system continues, not only are the individuals inside who need help suffering from the consequences of these inadequate solutions, but also those around shack villages whose livelihoods are dependent on the success of their businesses.

Jason Shackelford is the owner of Stingray Auto Repair and has been in business for 10 years in South Lake Union. 

*This commentary has been updated to reflect the correct name: Aloha Village.


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