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Sketched May 18, 2016

The line of old RVs off West Armory Way in Interbay has been growing. Campers said it has gone from five to 25 in five months.

This is one of several locations where the city is letting people who live out of their vehicles park temporarily while tent cities for the homeless are established elsewhere. Trash gets picked up and four portable toilets have been set up.

Campers have been issued a permit to park here until May 27, but Robert Archibald, speaking for the group of camp dwellers, said he hopes the city will grant an extension.

The lot occupies a stretch of dirt road adjacent to the Washington National Guard Armory. A Whole Foods supermarket and a Rapid Ride bus stop at 15th Avenue West are within walking distance.

Archibald said this type of arrangement for people who live in their cars or RVs provides safety and sense of community.

“We are not homeless,” he told me as I sketched him in from of his old Ford Mobile Traveller. “This is my home.”

The sense of community Archibald described was easy to see. Campers quickly went searching for their spokespeople after I identified myself as a journalist. Moments later I was sitting at a makeshift living room where some corn cans where still open from a recent meal.

Archibald said he used to work in construction but went on disability due to health issues. He has been living in his car ever since he came to Seattle in 1999. He praised the idea of setting up parking lots for people who shelter in their cars and RVs. And added that people shouldn’t fear campers. “We are the same as you, just with less.”

Joshua said he has dealt with homelessness pretty much all his life, going from foster home to foster home as a kid and later living around the Ave in the U-District. Now 23, he has been taking shelter at the school bus that is parked next to Archibald’s camper.

Danny said he has been unable to find permanent housing since he received a less than honorable discharge from the Army years ago. He is now 32.

Miguel Angel was visiting a friend who moved to the safe lot a month ago. The friend didn’t want to be sketched but Miguel Angel graciously agreed. He shared stories about leaving El Salvador when the civil war broke in the late 70s and eventually landing in Seattle. Now he lives at a nearby shelter run by DESC, a nonprofit serving disabled and vulnerable homeless adults in the Pacific Northwest.