Several Seattle City Council members Monday criticized a state senator’s plan to fence off The Jungle as he sought to explain his approach to the homeless encampment.
Several Seattle City Council members Monday trashed a state senator’s plan to keep people out of the notorious homeless encampment known as The Jungle by building a fence.
Sen. Reuven Carlyle, D-Seattle, proposed the fence last week after the Senate Transportation Committee approved his request for $1 million to address concerns about the encampment under and next to Interstate 5, where large numbers of people are living in unsanitary conditions and where two people were recently shot to death.
Carlyle said the area should no longer be accessible as a site for people to live. But some council members criticized the plan during their Monday briefing, saying they want to see money spent on helping the people living there.
Councilmember Sally Bagshaw said building a fence would be “a very bad use of money,” and Councilmember Debora Juarez slammed the plan as “absolutely insane.”
“To put up a fence that people are either going to climb, cut or dig under is ridiculous,” Juarez said.
Councilmember Lorena González brought up the United States-Mexico border.
“We shouldn’t be building a fence on the southern border and we shouldn’t be building a fence on the I-5 corridor,” she said.
Councilmember Kshama Sawant called the plan “a complete waste of money,” echoing her remarks Saturday when she hosted a “people’s assembly” on ending homelessness.
Sawant asked hundreds of people who packed City Hall for the event to help her win an additional $10 million in emergency funds to obtain shelter for people living on the streets.
Only Councilmember Tim Burgess voiced support of fencing as a possibility Monday.
The state money in question — part of a transportation budget not yet voted on by the full Senate — would not need to be spent on a fence.
Carlyle’s appropriation would allow the money to be used for any “safety improvements and operations relating to homeless encampments along Interstate 5 between milepost 162 and milepost 165.”
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Bagshaw praised the senator representing Queen Anne, Magnolia and Ballard for securing the money but suggested it be used to clean up the area.
In a news release last week, Carlyle described enclosing The Jungle in a box of fencing 8,000 feet long topped with razor wire wrapped around barbed wire.
But in an interview Monday, he said his goal is limited fencing in only the most dangerous areas. And it would go up only after months of work to help people living there, in partnership with city officials.
City, county and state officials are working on a comprehensive approach to The Jungle, said Viet Shelton, spokesman for Mayor Ed Murray.
Murray last week expressed support for Carlyle’s appropriation. In an interview Monday, he declined to share an opinion on fencing off The Jungle.
“It’s state property, and the state should figure out how to secure it,” he said, adding, “I have no idea how you secure an interstate freeway.”
Fencing or no, the city needs more help from the state in helping people living outdoors in The Jungle and elsewhere, the mayor said.
Information in this article, originally published Feb. 29, 2016, was corrected March 1, 2016. Due to an editing error, a previous version of this story incorrectly attributed the statement, “We shouldn’t be building a fence on the southern border and we shouldn’t be building a fence on the I-5 corridor.”