Seattle assessment team tours ‘Jungle’ homeless camp again; mayor plans to close it eventually

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SEATTLE -- City and state officials on Wednesday toured 'The Jungle' homeless encampment for the second time in two weeks, taking a close look at the living conditions inside.

But some nearby business owners said they are tired of the crime and believe The Jungle must be shut down.

The assessment was led by Seattle Fire Chief Harold Scoggins. The team did not sweep the camp or tell anyone inside to leave but some people who work nearby believe that’s exactly what needs to happen.

“It’s a little alarming,” said mechanic Sam Svarny.

Svarny keeps the moving trucks running at Super Friends Moving company. His office sits right next to The Jungle and he believes the criminal and drug activity is too dangerous for him and everyone who lives inside the homeless camp.

“It’s not safe but that’s the only alternative they have,” he said. “They’re just doing what they have to do to survive.”

“My concern is for the outsiders coming in here, bringing drugs in and taking advantage of the folks living in The Jungle,” said Super Friends owner Jacob Raich.

But Scoggins said the assessment team had no plans to kick anybody out of the camp Wednesday.

“Shutting it down has not been a part of any of our conversations,” said Scoggins. “We’re just doing an assessment to see if we’re going into this area, how do we access this area safely.”

Safety is a top issue after five people were gunned down during a drug deal gone bad last week. Two of the victims died, including 45-year-old Jeannine Zapata. Her aunt, Kimberly Sundstrom, believes it’s time for The Jungle to be closed.

“It drew my niece down there, it’s drawing other people down there,” she said. “It's a magnet so no, I don't want it there.”

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray plans to eventually close The Jungle but not immediately.

Displacing dozens of homeless people who have nowhere else to go is not the mayor’s solution for the people living in squalor inside the homeless camp.

But patience is running out for people who work or live nearby.

“Enough is enough, this can’t go on anymore,” said Raich. “We need to put these folks on a track to plug them back into society.”

Police, fire, and city social service departments will report their findings back to the mayor’s office after Wednesday’s assessment.