State lawmakers propose building $1M barbed-wire fence around Seattle's 'Jungle'

SEATTLE -- State lawmakers are now talking about building a fence around Seattle's 'Jungle' to keep the homeless out of the area.

The Senate Transportation Committee has already approved $1 million to build the fence.

But the measure still needs the approval of the full Legislature.

Along I-5, as you enter and exit downtown Seattle, you can't miss the tents and the trash.

Many say the encampment known as 'The Jungle' is both disturbing and intriguing.

“We have the homeless and we have the squatters; these are the squatters,” Seattle resident Cindy Pierce said.

Following murders, sexual assaults and rampant drug deals, state lawmakers say the Jungle is too much of a liability to do nothing.

“It's awful for homeless folks, it's awful for public safety, it's really dangerous for drivers because you have dozens, hundreds of people underneath I-5,” said state Sen. Reuven Carlyle, D-Seattle.

Carlyle says lawmakers now want the state Department of Transportation to build a 6-foot-high barbed-wire fence to keep people out since it is on state grounds.

The 8,000-foot-long fence from South Dearborn Street to South Bayview Street will square off the Jungle. The effort will cost about a $1 million and an extra $600,000 a year to monitor.

“Building a fence topped with razor wire is not a solution; not only is it not a solution, it is a counter solution,” Seattle City Council member Kshama Sawant said.

Although WSDOT and Seattle Mayor Ed Murray are calling the fence a positive first step in the right direction, Sawant is not on board. She wants to spend the money instead on more sanctioned homeless camps.

“These sanction encampments come with a code of conduct, set of rules and funding helps them with basic services,” Sawant said.

But Barbara Poppe, a national expert on homelessness, says sanctioned camps are the wrong thing to do.

The city is paying Poppe an $80,000 consulting fee. She says the camps are no place for kids and the city should invest in housing instead.

Yet some homeless people say they don’t need housing and want no rules.

"I am going to live life, have fun doing it, seeing the world before I die,” said one homeless person.

Some Seattle residents now fed up say it's time for a tougher stance against people who choose the transient life.

“Seattle has to put our foot down and say we are not going to have these people anymore,” Pierce said.