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Kshama Sawant: Don’t sweep the jungle, add plumbing to it

Seattle City Council member Kshama Sawant doesn't want the assessment of "The Jungle" to result in a complete sweep of the area. (City of Seattle)

At least one Seattle city council member doesn’t want the assessment of “The Jungle” to lead to a complete sweep of the area.

Kshama Sawant says she doesn’t want the “dire statistics” to lead to the greenbelt under and around I-5 being cleared out. Instead, she said she wants to see it cleaned up and the approximately 400 people living there receive much-needed services.

Related: Why Seattle’s homeless solutions are missing the point

She also suggests adding plumbing and bathrooms for the illegal homeless encampment.

“If this assessment became a justification for that, it would be the right way to go,” Sawant said during Monday morning’s city council meeting.

A group of city leaders met Monday to discuss what is being done at the illegal encampment, as well as ideas moving forward. Seattle Fire Chief Harold Scoggins told the group that there have been more than 750 responses to the area in the past five years, which includes 250 fires.

Scoggins noted that some drainage has been diverted and makeshift outhouses have been built.

Madeline Goddard, with Seattle Public Utilities, expanded on the drainage issues Scoggins pointed out. Stormwater drains from I-5 and is supposed to connect into the city’s system, before making its way out into the Duwamish River. However, she said catch basins have either been filled with or blocked by garbage. Blocked downspouts result in runoff and being used to dispose of human waste. Goddard said there are “buckets of feces” and “bottles of urine” adjacent to the drainage systems.

And that outhouse Scoggins mentioned, it’s right next to stormwater drainage.

One of the samples that were taken during the assessment found “high levels” of fecal coliform.

Though the discussion of what to do with The Jungle and the people living there was humane, the underlying concern about safety remains. Council member Tim Burgess called the information presented Monday “shocking.”

“There are inherently dangerous … and significant health issues,” he said. “This is a clear public safety threat to our city. We should not allow these in the city.”

Burgess said the government is often “paralyzed” to act in the best interest of the people and forced to come up with alternatives. But he asked why the city would allow something like this to exist for 10 years when it would never be allowed in any other part of the city?

 

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