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Seattle council passes resolution for dealing with ‘Jungle’ residents

The American Civil Liberties Union is closely watching the work being done to clear out Seattle’s illegal homeless encampment known as the “Jungle.” (AP)

The Seattle City Council took a stance on the city’s infamous “Jungle” Tuesday, sending a message that it will not rush to clear out homeless encampments where at least 300 people are living.

“This particular resolution is sending a message that we are together, that we really want to make a difference for people who are homeless,” council member Sally Bagshaw said.

“I know that this feels like we are moving faster than some would like to have us move,” she said. “But I believe we have to have a starting point. This is that starting point.”

Related: International District residents have concerns about Jungle evictions impacting neighborhood

Citing the need to “move with urgency,” the council unanimously approved a non-binding resolution at its Tuesday meeting that was put forward by Bagshaw. It stipulates that no one should be removed from the homeless encampment before they are contacted by an outreach worker and given options for housing and care. It also states outreach workers should document what offers of housing have been offered to each individual, and that garbage, recycling bags and needle receptacles should be provided in the Jungle. The resolution also declares that human waste needles and other unsanitary issues should be cleaned up in the area.

Mayor Ed Murray is reportedly in support of the resolution and worked closely on it with Bagshaw.

When it comes to those who refuse help, however, the resolution requires the council be notified three days in advance of any attempt to relocate unwilling residents.

The Jungle has drawn considerable attention after a gruesome shooting in the area earlier this year. The area, a greenbelt which extends along I-5 through south Seattle, was soon evaluated. Hundreds were found to have set up encampments. Crime, trash and unsanitary conditions were discovered. From that, a debate has arisen over how to deal with Jungle residents. City officials, along with representatives of the Union Gospel Mission, have recently moved through the Jungle, contacting residents and offering services. Others, such as the ACLU, argue that the residents should be left alone until adequate, permanent housing is available.

Bagshaw argued that since the homeless crisis was acknowledged, the city has not made significant progress toward solving the problem.

“We know that in our city, that the homeless crisis identified and declared in November of last year, we are not making the kind of progress that we need to make,” Bashaw said. “We are seeing a lot more people who are taking their tents and moving into the International District, or Beacon Hill, into Ballard, Magnolia. As a city I think we can do much better.”

Other council members commented that they appreciate the sentiment in the resolution, but would like to take it further over the coming year.

“Council members here have been talking about urgency, and I look forward to seeing that urgency during the budget in November when proposals will be made for actual funding for homeless services,” said Councilmember Kshama Sawant. “And proposals will be made this year for affordable housing, for tenants’ rights. Let’s make sure that all council members show urgency on all those aspects — then that would mean this is the first step.”

KIRO Radio’s Dan Restione contributed to this article.

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