Officials plan to evict hundreds of homeless from notorious ‘Jungle’ camp

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SEATTLE -- In as little as three weeks the infamous homeless camp called 'The Jungle' could be cleared out.

Officials said the conditions inside the camp are unsanitary and dangerous for the approximately 300 homeless people living there.

The city and state said it wants to take a compassionate approach, partnering with the Seattle Union Gospel Mission; the goal is to place as many people into shelters as possible.

But right now there is not a final plan to make sure people can’t return to The Jungle.

“I think a fence would be great,” said Todd Lorenz, who works near the unsanctioned homeless camp.

In January, five people were shot and two were killed inside the camp.

A study by the city found hundreds of homeless people living in squalor; some areas inside were deemed too dangerous for people to live.

Starting next week, officials plan to tell everyone living in The Jungle their time is up.

“The core objectives are to safely transition individuals who are living in this area out of the area. To get as many of them as possible into shelter, stable shelter and services,” said Scott Lindsay, public safety adviser to Seattle Mayor Ed Murray. “In fact, having even a 50% success rate with that would be remarkable success.”

But many worry a 50% success rate is anything but success.

People like Lorenz aren’t convinced officials can do enough to make sure people don’t return after the clean-up.

“They might move a couple but they’re going to come right back,” he said. “They always do.”

Besides social outreach. crews plan to clean up the trash, repair damaged infrastructure and widen roads to make sure first-responders can get inside quickly and safely.

City and state officials are working with an outside consultant to figure out how to keep people from moving back into The Jungle. The plan has a $1 million budget.

Monikka Pegues said she works with drug addicts living in The Jungle.

She said she is not sure anything can be done to completely close the 2-mile long camp stretching from I-90 to Spokane Street.

“As far as stability, I do understand why they do like it,” she said. “It’s their own family, it’s their own community.”

Starting next week, the Union Gospel Mission will send teams in to conduct individual counseling and place people into shelters.

The city said there are plenty of shelter beds to absorb the hundreds of people living in The Jungle, but officials admit not everyone will want to leave.