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Mayor Murray: Illegal Homeless Camps Must Be 'Secured'

The Jungle: a green beltway east of Interstate 5 where dozens of homeless people live.
KUOW Photo/Gil Aegerter
The Jungle: a green beltway east of Interstate 5 where dozens of homeless people live.

Advocates for the homeless have welcomed Seattle’s new tent cities and RV parking for homeless people. But they condemn the ongoing sweeps of illegal campsites. Mayor Ed Murray said Tuesday's shootings in a homeless encampment only reinforced the need to move people out of them.


Seattle Mayor Ed Murray had just given a televised speech on Seattle’s homelessness crisis when he got the news of five people shot in the encampment known as the Jungle.

Murray: “I was told within seconds of walking away from the cameras that the shooting had happened. It felt like someone had just kicked me in the head.”

Murray said the city can’t sanction people living in such an unsafe place. 

Murray: “That area needs to be secured.”

And Murray said more people are now leaving those camps in response to outreach.  

Murray: “Our data is not the best data in the world, but generally we’ve moved from 5 percent agreeing to 40 percent agreeing. Usually you have to go more than once.”

The ACLU and advocates for the homeless have called on Seattle to suspend its sweeps of homeless encampments, which have increased in the past year.

Alison Eisinger heads the Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness.

Eisinger: “What’s hard to understand is what purpose is served by telling people that they can’t be in a certain location. That in and of itself doesn’t help people.”

She said people are being traumatized by the cleanups and there isn’t enough room for them in shelters anyway. At the same time she applauds Seattle’s efforts to create more legal tent camping and RV parking, as it’s doing in the Ballard neighborhood.

Residents there are divided. Doug Dixon with Pacific Fishermen Shipyard said the city project should be an improvement to what he’s been seeing in Ballard’s industrial zones.

Dixon: “It was a free-for-all encampment of homeless and indigents that were very into loud music, drinking early in the morning, and doing a lot of drugs -- a lot of needles on the ground.”

Dixon said he trusts the city to put an end to that. Two “safe lots” for RVs should open by the end of February.

Year started with KUOW: 2005