Latest report details difficult living conditions for Jungle residents

Jun 11, 2016, 10:33 PM | Updated: Jun 12, 2016, 8:40 am
seattle, jungle, teddy, bear...
The mixed messages about how to fix The Jungle has left everything a mess. (City of Seattle)
(City of Seattle)

An averted rape. A 6-year-old child living under I-5 in the Jungle. A man whose face was attacked by rats while he overdosed on heroin.

These stories are severe but were among those told during a three-week effort by Seattle officials and the Union Gospel Mission to tour the infamous Jungle homeless encampment that spans a greenbelt along I-5 through south Seattle.

Starting on May 23, UGM and Seattle officials began contacting every person living in the Jungle. One goal was to exit with data, but outreach teams also helped a handful of people leave the area. However, many still remain living on the EDGE (East Duwamish Greenbelt Encampments).

The “EDGE” is what outreach teams started calling what has historically been known as the “Jungle” — city officials asked people to stop using potentially offensive language when speaking about it.

Aside from numbers assessing who is living in the Jungle and what is happening there, the report includes the stories.

On the first day of outreach, UGM stopped a sexual assault of a woman in progress. The victim agreed to accept transitional housing at a recovery program and was transported there the same day. She has now reconnected with her family. Last week, a mother moved into the EDGE with her 6-year-old child. The UGM outreach team spent several hours developing a relationship with the mother and got her into an apartment the next day. In another case, a couple is not yet ready to move out from under the freeway despite the man having eye and facial tissue damage caused by rats that ate at his face during a recent heroin overdose.

The report states that the man was revived using Narcan — an antidote to heroin overdose — though he suffered severe damage to his face and eye, and may have been brain damaged.

In some areas of the EDGE, there is blatant drug distribution and human trafficking activity. The outreach team made initial contact with individuals engaged in activities but have not attempted to engage them with offers of shelter or services.

The team has continued to observe multiple incidences of human trafficking and drug trafficking. The drug dealers are aware of the team’s presence and purpose, and even appear cordial. There have been no hostile encounters with dealers or residents, though a few residents have lashed out verbally, almost exclusively when intoxicated.

Results from outreach efforts

As of June 9:

• 99 percent of people living in the Jungle were contacted by outreach teams
• Outreach teams have contacted 281 individuals in the Jungle
• 47 people accepted offers of housing, shelter, services or relocation assistance
• UGM estimates 150 people left the Jungle since outreach began
• 25 people moved into the Jungle, or returned after initial contact and briefly leaving
• 150 people remain living in the Jungle
• UGM estimates 90 percent of people in the Jungle have a substance-abuse problem
• 80 percent of Jungle residents are male, 20 percent are female
• 45 percent are white; 45 percent are black; 10 percent are other ethnicities (Samoan, Hispanic, Asian)

Barriers out of the Jungle

With addiction being an issue for 90 percent of people living in the homeless encampments, UGM says that is the primary problem keeping people there and preventing them from forging a path out. Heroin is the primary drug used in the Jungle.

A secondary problem, UGM notes, is criminal justice issues — people dealing with past felony convictions, warrants, registered sex offenders, etc.

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Latest report details difficult living conditions for Jungle residents