While drivers were making their daily commute to work on Interstate 5, the last group of residents of The Jungle were being put out from underneath it. On the morning of Oct. 11, city and state crews followed up on their plans to clear out The Jungle, a controversial greenbelt space that many people called home. When crews arrived at 8 a.m., 13 people were still there.
“Everybody is frustrated. All the campers are frustrated. They’re sick of moving,” Jess Malinowski of stopthesweeps.org said. “They’ve got the stuff they need to survive and without any transportation it’s hard to move that stuff around and the city is not providing any real options for them. They’re just telling people to get out.”
During a news conference before the sweep, protesters held signs including one that read “without shelter people die,” while chanting, “We’re neighbors united, we’ll never be divided.”
Leading up to latest sweep of The Jungle, the city contracted with Union Gospel Mission to work with those living there.
“For six months we’ve been helping people move to where they wanna go. But with the deadline, there’s been an influx since Friday of people packing up and moving out,” Torie Rynning with Union Gospel Mission said. “A lot of those individuals have moved within the last three or four days.”
Rynning went on to say some folks relocated to camps, emergency shelters, and they were able to help a family of three secure an apartment.
Hana Alicic with Tent City Collective was among the protesters. She said sweeping The Jungle was more about optics.
Alicic said that if the city is going to conduct sweeps, they should be done in such a way “that it’s a road to somewhere, instead of a road to nowhere that we have now, so that folks are given actual housing.”
Because of the costs involved with sweeps, Alicic said there are more efficient ways to spend the money allocated for homelessness, “that money would be much better used on like a 24 hour shelter, and more low barrier shelters, permanent supportive housing. It seems such a massive economic waste to sweep people around the city.”
With campers cleared from The Jungle, crews will now go in to complete maintenance work.
The cleanup ends months of debate over how to deal with the place that has been a refuge for homeless people for decades. However, if history is any indicator, the space will be populated with homeless people again. Seattle has cleared The Jungle three times since 1994, and yet it has remained among the largest unauthorized tent encampments in the region.
While the city continues to clear unauthorized encampments across the city, the Seattle City Council is debating legislation that would change how city workers manage the cleanups, more commonly known as sweeps. The legislation requires that the city conduct cleanups after a series of other steps, including outreach and offers of housing.