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00000181-fa79-da89-a38d-fb7f2b910000KUOW is joining forces with other Seattle media outlets to highlight the homeless crisis in the city and region on Wednesday, June 29, 2017.The effort was modeled after a collaboration by more than 70 San Francisco outlets to focus a day of news attention on the issue and possible solutions.Read more about the Seattle project and check out our coverage below. Follow the city's coverage by using #SeaHomeless.HighlightsThe Jungle: an ongoing coverage project going into the notorious homeless encampment under Interstate 5.Ask Seattle's Homeless Community: KUOW is launching a Facebook group where anyone may ask a question about homelessness, but only people who have experienced it may answer. This was inspired by a recent event KUOW co-presented with Seattle Public Library and Real Change, where residents of the Jungle answered audience questions. No End In Sight: an award-winning investigative project from KUOW about King County's 10-year plan to end homelessness.

Homeless In Seattle: 'Seeing A Family Walk In Here, It’s A Heartbreaker'

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KUOW Photo/Liz Jones
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As snow dusted Seattle on Friday morning, demand for warm items shot up at a homeless camp in Seattle’s central area.

Ken Kahaloha, a resident at the South Jackson Street camp and also its kitchen manager, rattled off a few: “Coffee, hot chocolate, soup and Cup Noodles soup.”  

Also desired: shelter. King County estimates that about 9,000 people here are homeless. About half of them are families with children.

The camp where Kahaloha lives is one of three that sprang up to replace the tent city known as Nickelsville in West Seattle. The city shut down Nickelsville in September.

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The Jackson Street camp includes a dozen unheated wooden shacks, where about 20 people sleep, and a large canvas tent that serves as a sort of common area for residents. There’s a kitchen, some tables and a spot to play Nintendo. With winter in full swing, residents there said donations of warm blankets and firewood are appreciated.

“It’s not insulated, but main thing is you got a roof, a door that locks, and a window,” Kahaloha said.

The Jackson Street camp is the only one of the three that accepts families with children. Organizers say they’ve had more than a dozen kids there at one time. A public school bus even makes a regular stop outside the gate.

Kahaloha and his wife Charlotte said they’ve seen a lot of families come and go over the last year.

“Seeing a family walk in here, it’s a heartbreaker,” Kahaloha said.

“You kind of feel sorry for them,” Charlotte Kahaloha said. “It’s so cold out here. I don’t see how society doesn’t deal with it.”

On Friday, there were just two boys at the camp, brothers ages 5 and 7. The 7-year-old said he will likely spend most of the school break at the library, playing video games.

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The boy’s mother declined to be interviewed as she rushed to get her sons ready for school. But the bus was two hours late because of snow, so the boy wandered back into the tent. He headed straight for shelves stocked with canned food, cereal and bread.

“I am so hungry,” he told Kahaloha.

“You want some hot chocolate?” Kahaloha asked.

The boy spotted some brownies. Kahaloha asked him if he wanted them warmed.

The boy also picked out a can of tuna, which Kahaloha heated for him in the microwave.

In most cases, social service agencies can quickly move families from the camp to other temporary housing or motels.

Richard Gilbert, who has lived in the Nickelsville camps for nearly six years, joked with the boys as they started a snowball fight. He seemed to like having the kids around but said he hopes they’ll move on soon.

“They should be able to get into a house,” Gilbert said. “There should not be one person homeless on the streets today, not one.”

Year started with KUOW: 2006