The homeless encampment proposed as an alternative for people leaving The Jungle is scheduled to be closed next month over health and safety concerns.
First the homeless camps inside the East Duwamish Greenbelt, otherwise known as The Jungle, were closed. Now, residents of the camp proposed as an alternative by city officials say it’s being closed, too.
City outreach workers traveled to the camp Friday, going from one tent to another to inform people it will be closed for health and public-safety hazards, residents said. A cleanup of the camp is scheduled for March 7.
Residents of the camp Sunday met with supporters to discuss how to keep the camp open.
What the campers want is an opportunity to build a community, said Reavy Washington, who has lived at the Sodo camp for several months.
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“We have problems, but they’re the same ones that every other camp has,” he said. “And we can handle all of them if we got enough room and time from the city.”
The move to close the camp comes on the heels of a pair of recent arrests over complaints that three underage girls were sexually exploited and raped there. Several of the camp residents said they were unaware that the teen at the center of the case was underage.
Called “The Field” by its residents, the camp is located on a sliver of state-owned land near the intersection of Royal Brougham Way South and Airport Way South.
In August 2016, as outreach workers began encouraging people to leave encampments inside and adjacent to The Jungle, city officials obtained a permit from the state Department of Transportation to use the field as a transition site.
Seattle officials said at the time it would be used as a stopgap solution, while officials worked on plans to develop more permanent housing options. Several trash Dumpsters and portable toilets were delivered to the camp after the closure of last encampments inside the Jungle.
Six months later, nearly 50 to 60 people live at the Sodo camp inside tents and other makeshift shelters, residents said.
A spokesperson for the department that manages the city’s homeless encampments confirmed Monday that the camp will be closed for “growing criminal activity and public health hazards” impacting both the camp and the area surrounding surrounding it.
In the months since it was okayed by the city, the camp has become infested with rodents, said spokeswoman Julie Moore in an emailed statement. A series of fires at the camp have also raised concerns about the camp, she said.
But several campers said that the city has ignored previous requests for fire extinguishers and help fighting the rodent problem.
City council hopeful Jon Grant, who along with several other volunteers has helped campers remove garbage and debris, said that those concerns won’t be solved by closing the camp.
“You’re not going to alleviate public safety issues by dispersing vulnerable people throughout the city,” he said Sunday.
City officials said outreach workers from the Union Gospel Mission will continue to offer those still living at the camp services and shelter until its scheduled closure.