Excavators begin clearing brush at homeless camps

Several excavator vehicles and dump trucks were sent to Aberdeen’s largest homeless camp along the Chehalis River on Monday, and began bulldozing and clearing brush and debris from the area.

On Monday afternoon, a crew of several city workers were at the far west end of the riverfront property, using the vehicles to dig up and move a massive amount of dirt, blackberry bushes, as well as some miscellaneous debris and trash.

“You see down there, all the rows of sticker bushes and whatnot, we’re going to be cleaning all that stuff out,” said Aberdeen Public Works employee Brett Bradley while driving an excavator vehicle yesterday.

Bradley said at this time they will be moving the brush and garbage from the camp areas, but not the structures or tents that people are living in. When asked how long it would take to clean out all the brush, Bradley said he’s not sure, but that the workers could be there “for a week, probably.”

For some living in the camp, the arrival of construction vehicles to move bushes directly next to their homes came as an unwelcome surprise.

“We don’t know what’s going on, they could’ve given us notice,” said Savannah Ivy, who has been living in a tent in the camps.

April Obi, an Aberdeen resident who has family members living along the river, said her phone was lighting up when the construction vehicles showed up, and that homeless people she knew living there were “fearful and scared” that the city vehicles were going to force them to move that day.

“People down there are all packing up and scared, because they don’t know what they’re doing,” said Obi.

Some, however, said they appreciated the work by the city to clean up the property. Brett Hussey, who lives in a motorhome near Monday’s excavation work, said the city workers “were really respectful” and avoided damaging his living area, but added that he needed to be by his motorhome when they started.

“If I hadn’t been out there I would’ve had stuff missing,” said Hussey.