City, state give Seattle’s ‘Jungle’ residents a deadline to leave
People living in Seattle’s notorious “Jungle” are going to be told to leave starting next week.
The city, state, and Union Gospel Mission are teaming up to relocate the homeless people living in the greenbelt, where two people were killed and three more injured in a shooting in January.
An “intensive outreach” will begin with workers from the Mission, offering shelter and services and encouraging them to leave under their own power.
“This is a person-centered approach with the necessary supports to shift people into more stable housing,” Gov. Jay Inslee said. “The issues with the I-5 green belt are symptomatic of larger problems that we are working on with communities and partners around the state to alleviate homelessness for children, veterans, low-income workers and those with substance abuse or mental health issues.”
The Mission will have about two weeks before law enforcement moves in and people are “asked to leave by police,” according to Scott Lindsay, Special Assistant to Mayor Ed Murray. After the request is made, state workers will move in and begin the arduous task of cleaning up waste, as well as repairing any infrastructure damage that I-5 may have been incurred over the years people have been living in the Jungle.
People will not be allowed to return to the Jungle after work is complete. A “combination of deterrents” will keep people out, Lindsay said.
There’s still a possibility that a fence will be built around the greenbelt just below Beacon Hill. Exact plans for what will be done in the longer term is still being determined, however. The City of Seattle and state is waiting for a consultant’s recommendations.
Though the number of people living in the Jungle has fluctuated, one recent estimate puts it around 300. That number was as high as 400 after the city combed through the area in February.
Because some of the people in the Jungle have a history of rejecting help, Lindsay said it will be “remarkable” if there is a 50 percent success rate. As for the two-week time frame the Mission has to get the people living there help, Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission President Jeff Lilley said workers will do their best, but “no,” it is not enough time.
“We know many of these people by name and their unique situations,” Lilley said. “Whether someone struggles with mental illness, is in need of recovery services, qualifies for veteran’s aid, or has other challenges, we will connect them to social service providers who can best offer the help they need.”
The City of Seattle will spend almost $50 million in 2016 on outreach, services, and shelter for the homeless. That includes $7 million approved after the mayor declared a State of Emergency. The Mission said it will not be accepting funds from the city for outreach activities, but the people who they contact will have access to shelter space, motel vouchers, and travel assistance.