TACOMA, Wash. – It’s been dubbed Tacoma’s 'Jungle', named after Seattle's infamous camp, and on Tuesday morning crews began sweeping the sprawling homeless encampment underneath Interstate 705.
But shelter beds aren’t easy to come by in Pierce County and many of the evicted worry there isn’t room for them.
The sweep came after area businesses complained to the city about trash and needles. The city told Q13 News the camp isn’t safe for people to live in.
One of the evicted campers said he got into a fight Tuesday morning, the injuries on his face occurred before his campsite was swept.
“I was taking down a tent I thought was abandoned,” said John. “Somebody showed up and beat me.”
“We have a safety concern with people living underneath our bridge structures,” said WSDOT’s Claudia Bingham Baker.
About 30 people were offered vouchers to stay at the nearby Tacoma Rescue Mission but the men’s shelter is already at double capacity.
“It’s a growing issue down here in Pierce County,” said TRM’s Noah Baskett who estimated Tacoma's Jungle homeless camp's population to be approximately 200.
Besides, not everyone evicted from Tacoma’s Jungle want to live in a shelter where they have to follow rules.
John said he likes the sense of freedom he feels living in a tent.
But since most shelters are over capacity, many of those evicted said they will likely move on to other areas of Tacoma and Pierce County to set up a new camp.
“I’m a disabled vet,” said Rodney Thomas. “I got a couple options, most people in there don’t.”
Road crews cannot conduct inspections or maintenance until the camp under I-705 is completely cleared.
The city of Tacoma said it will work with community partners over the next few weeks to make contact and offer services to any campers left behind.
The homeless camp in downtown Tacoma isn’t unique. WSDOT officials said there are approximately 20 other unsanctioned camps underneath bridges and overpasses in the region.