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Thursday, June 11, 1998 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Tents For Homeless Replace Beacon Hill `Jungle'

Seattle Times Staff Reporter

Upset that police and city workers razed the outdoor encampments of some 100 homeless people in the area known as "the jungle," advocates for the homeless yesterday erected a tent city on Beacon Hill.

Bulldozers were used to clear out the jungle, an overgrown and wooded parcel of land on Beacon Hill under Interstate 5. The wooded area is refuge to more than 100 homeless people, city officials estimate.

City officials said the camps are a threat to health and safety. Three women have been killed in the area since last fall, and a man has been arrested in connection with the slayings.

But advocates for the homeless said the city got it backward. It should have found or created new housing for the homeless before it destroyed what some said was a homeless person's safest option.

SHARE and WHEEL, two local organizations that claim to be composed of homeless people and formerly homeless people seeking to run their own communities, established a tent community on the west side of Beacon Hill yesterday afternoon. The temporary encampment will provide emergency shelter for those displaced by the city's actions.

Several portable toilets were set up, and camp organizers said jugs of water would be brought in.

Every couple of years the city tries to clean out the jungle. So far, the cleanups have been short-lived, with people moving back into the woods nearly as soon as police leave.

Seattle Mayor Paul Schell said that while clearing the jungle is not the whole answer, it would be irresponsible for the city to simply ignore the unsanitary conditions. He acknowledged there are people who prefer to live in isolation rather than in some of the more traditional homeless shelters, but that doesn't mean the city can condone it.

Copyright (c) 1998 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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