At least 400 live amid filth, crime, danger in Seattle's 'Jungle', assessment team says

SEATTLE -- It’s been nearly three weeks since the deadly shooting inside the notorious homeless camp called "The Jungle."

But city leaders admit there is still no plan on how to handle the lawless, unregulated camp.

The assessment team believes at least 400 people live in the 3-mile long, 150-acre area.

The team released dozens of images in the new report. It shows piles of garbage, used needles, and human waste strewn across The Jungle, which reaches underneath and along I-5.

“We have great concerns for the people that are living there,” said Jason Johnson, director of the Seattle Human Services Department.

Social workers believe The Jungle is so dangerous, addiction and homeless outreach services won’t even go inside.

Nearly 50 people from city, county and state agencies toured the camp twice since a drug-deal gone bad ended with five people being shot in January. Two of the shooting victims died.

Assessors found more than 200 tents in the 150-acre area. Adding to the concerns, much of the human waste flows untreated into the Duwamish River.

“There’s also a bad environment that’s flowing over into the neighborhood,” said Steve Charles, who lives in nearby Beacon Hill.

Charles worries about safety in his neighborhood and believes the unregulated homeless camp should be shut down.

“The fact that it’s unregulated, unsanitary,” he said, “That makes me lean towards dissolving it.”

Seattle Police admit there is crime inside The Jungle -- rape, assault, and drugs run rampant. Assessors also found piles of stolen property, including computers, briefcases, luggage and bicycles.

On Wednesday, a fire erupted at another unsanctioned homeless camp in Interbay. Seattle Fire Chief Harold Scoggins worries if a similar fire happens inside The Jungle, it could spread to the brush and nearby neighborhoods.

“We have seen more than 250 fires in the last five years in this area,” said Scoggins.

The Washington State Department of Transportation, which owns a majority of the land that The Jungle sits on, also found superficial damage to bridge structures under the freeway.

Finding a way to fulfill Gov. Jay Inslee’s plan to repair 33 expansion joints will be tough if the camp is allowed to stay open.

“We try to work on top of the structure and implement a temporary repair if it happens at night or during the peak hours,” said Dave McCormick with WSDOT.

Neighbors understand the issue of homelessness is complex, but some say allowing so many people to live in dangerous conditions is inhumane.

“You just can’t have that many people,” said Charles. “That’s too many.”

Officials admit a fix for the problem won’t come quickly. The assessment team, lead by the Seattle Fire Department, will come up with a plan for what happens next.