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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.

State May Build Fence Around Jungle Homeless Camp

William Kowang lives in the area under I-5 known as "the Jungle."
KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols
William Kowang lives in the area under I-5 known as "the Jungle."

The Washington State Department of Transportation has $1 million to spend on the Jungle, a homeless encampment in South Seattle where roughly 400 people live. The state Legislature approved the earmark late last week.

Travis Phelps, spokesman for the Washington State Department of Transportation, says one option is a fence to keep people out. The state oversees the area beneath the highway.  

“A lot of the fences that we build near the highway system are easily cut and compromised," Phelps said. “That’s one of the design challenges that we’re looking at – how do we make sure we secure the area and spend taxpayer dollars wisely?”

The rest of the money would be used to flush out camps and improve the roads through the area. 

Phelps says the work will take planning and sensitivity. He emphasized several times the work will be coordinated with Seattle and King County.

But WSDOT isn’t going to spend any of that money on homeless outreach. It will rely on Seattle and King County to do that work – and to pay for it.

Phelps indicated keeping people out of the right-of-way is a top priority. State officials say they haven't made a final decision on whether a fence will be used, but declined to specify alternative ways to secure the area.

One service the state might pay for  is some kind of facility to store the belongings of homeless people in camps that have been swept. Phelps said the state would work to reunite homeless people with their personal belongings. With hundreds of people camping in the jungle, some of whom have built up permanent structures including working kitchens, that could prove a significant undertaking.