Everett Not Giving Up On Smith Avenue

April 11, 2016

Everett, Everett Government


Everett Station first opened February 4th 2002 at 3201 Smith Avenue. (photo courtesy Wikipedia)


Crews use a loader and dump truck to clean the area along Smith Avenue twice a week.


A look at Smith Avenue on a Tuesday afternoon.

Part of Smith Avenue is undergoing a rough time. Remodeled years ago with Federal grant money, wide sidewalks leading from Pacific to 38th street have made an attractive entrance to the multi-modal transportation center. There, park and ride lots are often full as commuters take trains and the bus to points north, south and east of Everett. In the future light rail is expected to add to the area along with redevelopment and the addition of hundreds of housing units.

But two blocks of Smith Avenue are not faring so well. From the 3600 – 3800 blocks of Smith Avenue drug dealing, theft, garbage and human waste are creating a scary environment for workers and visitors alike. Underneath I-5 is a wide open area where for the last three years people have been gathering to buy and use drugs, mostly heroin and meth. They mix in with those coming and going from the Everett Gospel Mission. But they are not part of the mission. They don’t use the mission’s services and even when offered a warm bed, often refuse. Choosing to stay under the overpass and live the life they prefer. Many others who come to this part of Smith Avenue have a home to return to after spending time getting high and hanging out on the sidewalk. Last year the the city put up a fence and added lighting to discourage people from hanging out there. It didn’t work. The fence has become a makeshift clothesline and a place to hang your bicycle.

Today Everett Mayor Ray Stephanson and a half-dozen members of the Everett Police Department met with property owners and business people who are located in the Smith Avenue area. It was billed as a community meeting so feedback could be exchanged by both sides to come up with ways to deal with crime, trespassing, human waste and other conditions that are plaguing the area.


Heroin, not the Gospel Mission has become a draw to the neighborhood.

A common theme from both law enforcement and the stakeholders in the area is frustration. People with decades of time living and working in the area say this is the worst they’ve seen it. While the Everett Gospel Mission is an easy target, the fact is many people who would use the mission’s services are afraid to go down into the area and into the mission. So what’s the draw? The common answer seemed to be drugs. Mostly heroin and meth. They’re cheap, easy to obtain and the rehab rate is miserable. Drug dealers have taken over the area and are camping out under the overpass. It’s dry, well lit and people know they can stay outside there. Everett’s no camping law has been ruled unconstitutional in municipal court so police can’t make people move on. One person called the area an outdoor bedroom. Now add to that people coming from out of the area who drop off food, blankets and supplies directly to people hanging out there. They hold cook outs and feeling better, then go back to their suburban areas. Usually shortly after they leave, their donations are trashed and food waste and garbage pile up.

It seems right now it’s a perfectly frustrating storm.

Everett Police say they are responding to the situation by re-assigning the anti-crime team from gang enforcement to patrolling Smith Avenue. Since November of 2014 there have been 387 arrests in the two block area. Recently a major drug supplier to Smith Avenue was busted. But cops say arresting people is only part of the equation. In that same amount of time 1300 people have been referred into a variety of treatment programs. The city is in the process of trying to locate property and build 70 units of low barrier housing. While many Smith Avenue Stakeholders said that would only encourage people to keep using, Everett Mayor Ray Stephanson insisted that providing low-barrier housing as has been done in Salt Lake City and Spokane will greatly help those who need it the most.

Hil Kaman, with the City of Everett Prosecutor’s office says the city is now recommending longer jail sentences for those who refuse to take part in seeking help. The city has just begun a work crew as alternate sentencing to hold people accountable. He also noted that unless increased mental health services are made available then the problem will not improve. There has to be a place where people can be treated or the cycle never ends.


Everett recently put up signs to discourage direct giving on Smith Ave.

Both the Mayor and Everett Police Chief Dan Templeman asked those gathered to call in and have officers come by their property to find ways to improve things. Several suggestions were made regarding new fencing, parking and traffic flow in the area. “If one thing isn’t working we need to scrap it and start over,” said Chief Templeman.

In addition several property owners in the area near Everett Station have begun long range planning and are encouraging people in the 3600 – 3800 block of Smith Avenue to join their efforts.

Both sides plan to follow-up again in 45 – 60 days to review concrete plans to improve conditions for everybody on Smith Avenue. While frustrated, it looks like nobody is ready to give up.


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