Members of Seattle’s City Council want to stop the mayor from clearing out the homeless encampment known as the Jungle.
A committee led by Councilmember Sally Bagshaw is introducing an alternative that would have the city wait until it can offer permanent housing to everyone there.
Mayor Ed Murray's original plan called for a few weeks of outreach by the Union Gospel Mission, then a deadline, after which the bulldozers would come in and anyone left would be removed.
But at a news conference on Wednesday, Murray appeared to be backing away from that plan.
He said there was no specific deadline and there would be no complete clearing out.
“I believe it will take an extensive amount of time for us to empty out the Jungle,” he said. “And quite honestly, we don’t have the resources to provide everybody shelter, so it’s going to be impossible for us to remove everybody.”
Minutes later, Councilmembers Sally Bagshaw and Mike O’Brien held their own news conference to say Murray shouldn't move anyone until people in the Jungle have permanent homes to go to. The city is offering spots in 11-hour shelters to house former residents of the Jungle if there is no other alternative available.
Bagshaw says that while people in the Jungle await a permanent solution to their homelessness, they need services, including sanitation and needle disposal.
“Let’s clean up the mess that’s there, let’s provide places for people to use the toilets,” she said.
At the end of the day, Bagshaw held a Human Services and Public Health committee meeting to get clarification on other council concerns.
The city has hired Union Gospel Mission to do the outreach work. UGM president Jeff Lilley clarified that they aren't pushing a religious agenda.
Another concern was that people would be arrested on the basis of being homeless. Officials from the mayor's office say that won't happen. Bagshaw and others still worry people will be cited for trespassing.
Bagshaw is working on a resolution to outline how the city should shape the plan for the Jungle, and wants the mayor's office on board. It will include a request for 24-hours shelters and for moving a thousand people into permanent spaces.