Amid a homelessness crisis, Seattle plans to shut down an unsanctioned homeless encampment known as "the Jungle," Washington state and city officials announced Tuesday. Officials detailed plans to clean up the area stretching along and under a highway after the people are moved out, the Seattle Times reported.
The announcement comes after a shooting in January that killed two people and wounded three more. Part of the plan is to offer shelter and services to the people living in the encampment, which sits under a freeway. Then the city and state will work to clean up health hazards like human waste and garbage while also removing fire hazards. The state budget earmarked $1 million to fix problems at "the Jungle."
About 300 people are estimated to live at "the Jungle" and some housing has already been set aside for them. Residents' issues include addiction, mental health problems and legal troubles.
"We’re dealing with a difficult population that is a little jaded about the services that are provided," said Jeff Lilley, president of Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission, according to the Times. Lilley added, "we’re going to do our best to provide just about any option that’s reasonable."
King County officials declared a state of emergency over the homelessness situation in November. Mayor Ed Murray said more than 45 people had died on the streets and nearly 3,000 children in Seattle Public Schools were homeless, the Seattle Times reported at the time.
According to U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's 2015 figures, Seattle had the third-most homeless people of any urban area in the country, despite ranking only 30th in population. There were an estimated 10,122 homeless people in Seattle/King County, which trailed only Los Angeles City and County (41,174) and New York City (75,323).