EDITORIAL | Welcome to The Jungle

As well-intentioned as government officials in Seattle may be, they always seem to be putting a foot forward in addressing the striking homeless crisis in this city and then following it with one big jump back.

Ever since Mayor Ed Murray declared a state of emergency regarding the homeless situation in Seattle in November, one idea after the other has been attempted with little to some success.

When it came to satisfying neighborhoods concerned about the number of RVs occupying spaces along their sidewalks, the idea of having "safe lots" was implemented. Last month the mayor's office said a second lot would not open due to high costs, so we will now have two "safe zones," which are cheaper, but only going to exist for maybe another month.

Ansel Herz with The Stranger recently wrote an eye-opening article about how the city is paying a private contractor $240 an hour to clear out unauthorized camp sites in the city, often throwing away what little possessions these homeless individuals have. If that doesn't say caring, we don't know what does.

Hopefully the city and Washington State Department of Transportation can find a cheaper solution to clearing out The Jungle than that.

Then again, clearing out The Jungle seems like it will cause more problems than fix any of the current ones the large encampment under and around Interstate 5 currently faces.

The Jungle came back into the spotlight when two people were fatally shot there in January, which seemed to be the last — if not lengthy — straw for city officials calling for its removal.

There's $1 million available for the cleanup of The Jungle site and relocation of its hundreds of campers, the latter falling to Union Gospel Mission to sort out.

The funny thing about that is ever since the topic of shutting down The Jungle came up (again), media outlets have been going inside the encampment to get the point of view from its residents; many say the lack of structure and safety concerns surrounding the city's shelters are the reason they chose to live in an encampment in the first place. They also say they could make The Jungle a better place if the city or state would simply provide them with some resources to do so, such as a bathroom facility and dumpster.

The city and state believe the better idea is to do exactly what it did in 1994, and then in 1998 and 2003, which is to try to give people in The Jungle who don't want to stay in shelters no other choice. According to the Seattle Weekly, outreach workers hired by the city to convince homeless people in encampments to accept shelter and other services have had little success between November and January.

And since history has shown that clearing out The Jungle only means a brief reprieve before it grows back bigger and fuller than ever.

Despite Washington Sen. Reuven Carlyle's forward-thinking proposal to fence off The Jungle, the cost would be much higher than what's budgeted and also not likely to stop people from getting in, unless it were as big as the Berlin Wall, as John Fox of the Seattle Displacement Coalition told the Weekly.

No, it's far more likely campers will find somewhere else to set up their tents until the dust settles or possibly even face arrest.

Shutting down The Jungle may not be a very original idea, but it's certainly vintage, and Seattle just loves vintage.