The Jungle | KUOW News and Information

The Jungle

Donald Slyter, a resident of The Jungle, a homeless encampment in Seattle believed to have been around since the 1930s. It gets its name from the name for homeless encampments at the time -- hobo jungles.
Credit KUOW Photo/Gil Aegerter

The Jungle is the unofficial name for a sprawling homeless encampment underneath Interstate 5. It's estimated that 300-400 people have set up camps in the area.

The Jungle's was a place so notorious for drugs and violence that Seattle's Fire Department wouldn't respond without a police escort and outreach efforts were few.

The encampment has come under more public scrutiny since a shooting in January 2016 killed two and hospitalized three. Police have arrested three teenagers — ages 13, 16, and 17 — who are believed to have carried out the deadly attack.

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray and King County Executive Dow Constantine declared a state of emergency to combat homelessness in the region in November 2015.

See also:

Out of the Jungle: A special radio documentary about life in, and after, the Jungle.

PHOTOS: This Is Seattle's Notorious 'Jungle'

Heartbreaking dispatches from inside the Jungle

No End In Sight: an investigative project from KUOW about King County's 10-year plan to end homelessness

The entrance to a homeless shelter on Third Avenue in Seattle.
KUOW Photo/John Ryan

Seattle’s homeless shelters don’t work for some people. They have curfews, you can’t stay with your partner, there’s nowhere for your stuff and most won’t take pets.

It’s a problem for many of Seattle’s homeless. But what if we changed the shelter model to get rid of some of these barriers?


The Seattle City Council has passed a resolution refining the mayor’s plan to sweep the Jungle in the wake of criticism. The council’s new resolution is designed to provide jungle residents with some protection from eviction. It follows a week where the council and mayor sometimes seemed at odds over the best approach.

Chris Fojtik and Mahealani Texeira outside Union Gospel Mission. They choose to sleep outside, rather than being separated. Most shelters don't let couples stay together at night.
KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols

The woman was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

She had returned to the Jungle to pick up her suitcase.

Then the shooters arrived. She and two others survived, but two people were killed.

A Community Talk About The Jungle

May 26, 2016
Tents lined up in the Jungle, which extends north and south under Seattle's Interstate 5 corridor.
KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols

Friday, June 3
Seattle Public Library - Central Branch
1000 4th Ave, Seattle WA 98104 (See map
7:00-9:00 p.m. 

Free admission. 

Join KUOW for a deeper dive into the encampment called "The Jungle," including the city's efforts to clean it up, and what the alternatives are for people who live there.

Many cats and dogs live as pets to residents of the Jungle, Seattle's notorious homeless encampment.
KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols

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.


A camp area at the caves in the north part of the Jungle, Seattle's notorious homeless encampment that leapt onto the map after a fatal shooting in January.
KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols

Bill Radke speaks with Jordan Royer about his experience managing the Jungle in the early 2000s. Royer was in charge of dealing with the homeless camp under Interstate 5 under Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels. He said the city can manage the Jungle, but it most likely will never be able to truly shut it down. 

Homeless advocates gather outside Seattle Mayor Ed Murray's office.
KUOW Photo/Liz Jones

Some homeless people and supporters are pushing back against plans to close the encampment under Interstate 5 known as the Jungle. They interrupted a Seattle City Council meeting this week and say they plan to keep fighting. 


The Union Gospel Mission works with Operation Nightwatch to fill up its spare beds at the end of the night.
KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols

The doors at Operation Nightwatch open at 9 p.m. Homeless men and women – but mostly men – stream in and grab a hot meal.

Then they sit around. They look anxious. They’re waiting for beds.


Some residents of the Jungle keep tidy encampments, like William Kowang above, while others live in garbage with needles strewn about.
KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols

It's the beginning of the end for the sprawling homeless camp under Interstate 5 known as the Jungle. 

This week, officials from the city of Seattle and Washington state unveiled a plan to clear out and clean up the Jungle.

Many cats and dogs live as pets to residents of the Jungle, Seattle's notorious homeless encampment.
KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols

Kim Malcolm speaks with Tim Harris, local advocate for the homeless and founder of the street paper Real Change, about the plan to clear out and clean up the Jungle. Harris says this plan will not help the residents of the Jungle, it will displace them. 

A homeless encampment in what the city calls the I-5 East Duwamish Greenbelt. It's unofficially known as The Jungle. But officials say they are preparing to move the people who live here.
City of Seattle Photo

State and Seattle officials have a plan for emptying out a two-mile stretch of homeless camps under Interstate 5 around Dearborn. It means the end of the area known as the Jungle.

Officials say the plan is to keep people from returning - without building a fence.


Carmen and Robert Patterson have lived in the Jungle, a homeless encampment in Seattle, on and off since 2011. They and several others who live in the Jungle shared photos, stories and text messages with us.
Courtesy of Robert Patterson

Robert Patterson lives in the Jungle, a homeless encampment. This is a transcript from his audio diary: 

Sunday is … Carmen and I try to make this our day that we don’t have to go anywhere. It’s a lazy day.


Tents lined up in the Jungle, which extends north and south under Seattle's Interstate 5 corridor.
KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols

Almost nobody provides outreach and services in the Jungle, the homeless encampment under Interstate 5. Most city-funded outreach workers won't go there because of safety concerns. 

But that's about to change. The city of Seattle is planning what they're calling an intense period of outreach in the Jungle. 

Jon Meer of Light Under The Bridge is the outsider who comes to the Jungle most often.
KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols

Every day, social workers reach out to homeless people on the streets of Seattle. But there’s one place social workers seldom go: the Jungle.

That’s the notorious homeless encampment under Interstate 5 where there have been assaults, rapes and stabbings. Many outreach workers consider it too dangerous. But a few do enter the Jungle. 

Jacobo Miguel Pinon Jr. plays the harmonica at his space in the Jungle, a homeless encampment that houses more than 400 people by some estimates.
KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols

Bill Radke speaks with KUOW reporter Joshua McNichols about Seattle's homeless encampment known as the Jungle. They discuss what it's like in the Jungle and why we react to it the way we do. 

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