We All Deserve Better Than the Jungle

By United Way of King County, on July 18, 2016 | In Fighting Homelessness

The changes along the I-5 corridor are undeniable. There are far fewer people living under the freeway in the encampment known as The Jungle. Fewer tents, less debris and fire hazards have been cleared.

It’s been two months since Mayor Ed Murray called for extensive outreach to clean up the encampment, which stretches from SoDo to Beacon Hill. Throughout that process, we’ve heard from many of the people who have built a community and called this area home. Also during this time, KUOW and other media outlets have introduced us to the individuals who remind us that this is a human issue, not an aesthetic issue, not a numbers issue and certainly not an easy-to-fix issue.

The safety, health and environmental risks that this long-established, unsanctioned encampment has posed for years are real.

We think that everyone should have a roof overhead, and are supportive of the City’s efforts to move people out of The Jungle. We also know that there are still too many people without a safe place to sleep – and, as a community, we have a lot of work ahead of us.

For years, we’ve invested in emergency shelters (more than 20, county-wide), provided supportive services people who’ve been chronically homeless and advocated for legislation that keeps people housed.

Since the city and county declared a state of emergency in November, we’ve made new investments and are happy that hundreds of people have had the help they need to move off the streets:

o   Streets to Home, a program that connects people with resources so they can be housed again, has helped 206 people move into housing.

o   Jobs Connect outreach workers have connected with hundreds of people living on the streets to help connect them to employment. As of June 30, 66 people had been connected to employment

o   We continue to fund services for people living in 2,241 units of supportive housing. We know that even when housed, people who have lived on the streets for a long period of time, often have additional needs.

o   We have committed to support the City of Seattle’s efforts to provide a new type of low-barrier shelter later this year. The shelter is a comprehensive person-centered approach and will offer 24-hour case management, mental and behavioral health services and resources to find housing.

There’s a lot more work to be done, but it’s clear that when we pull together as a community, we can make a difference.

(Photo from Gil Aegerter/KUOW)


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