”It should be closed down,” Mayor Ed Murray said about the homeless encampment in a meeting with The Seattle Times Editorial Board.

Share story

Mayor Ed Murray in a meeting with The Seattle Times Editorial Board Thursday said the homeless encampment known as The Jungle in the Sodo neighborhood should be shut down.

“The Jungle has been around for years,” Murray said. “I would argue that I’ve been the first mayor who’s been willing to say we actually need to close it down … even if we didn’t have a homeless problem, I believe it would be ground zero for criminal activity in this city. It just structurally lends itself to that.”

The Jungle is on Washington State Department of Transportation land, and Murray said that even before this week’s shootings he’s been pushing for the state to lead an effort to close the encampment south of downtown.

“We have been in discussions quietly with the state before these murders about how we can secure … their right of way,” Murray said. “It should be closed down.”

Murray said the state will have to secure the area because of the costs involved in a project of that size.

“It simply is not safe for them (the homeless) to be there. It’s not safe for them to be on the sidewalk, either, but it’s marginally more safe than The Jungle. … We should physically secure it so we can manage it.”

When asked how the state was responding, Murray said, “Conversations have picked up significantly in the last 48 hours.”

Murray said his administration is changing how it awards contracts to homeless-service providers, changing funding to be “outcome-driven” and asking agencies to focus more on personalized attention.

“Our shelters are basically not functioning the way the shelter system should. People are staying in shelters for months and years. It’s broken,” Murray said.

He said changes would be phased in over three years.

“There are a lot of great programs out there and wonderful agencies … but not all of them are giving us the outcomes we need on homelessness,” he said.