`Jungle' Bulldozed; 8 Arrested
Seattle Times Staff Reporter
Eight homeless people were arrested yesterday when they refused to leave a Beacon Hill encampment known as "The Jungle," and their tents and supplies were carried off by a small bulldozer.
Seattle's most visible homeless encampment had been occupied for a week as a symbol of concern over the city's shortage of homeless shelters. And at the end of the day, one City Council member said he had been convinced.
The Jungle, really a greenbelt overlooking Interstate 90 under the Pacific Medical Center, has long been the scene of smaller homeless encampments. Those arrested yesterday had been forced to leave the site in early June, during the city's semiannual clean-out of the area.
When they returned June 28, they chose a very visible ledge, where their encampment and their sign proclaiming "Tent City 2" appeared designed to catch the city's attention. As one of the occupants said, the group sought "to make a statement" about the city's need for more homeless shelters.
Last Thursday, city workers left eviction notices on tent flaps.
City officials said the encampment could not be tolerated because it was too large, too visible and could set a precedent, forcing the city to tolerate all public encampments.
The timing of the city's action yesterday almost defeated Jungle residents' grab at attention. When the clearing began yesterday, most of the Jungle's occupants were at City Hall, pleading to be allowed to stay. Only three residents were at the encampment, two of whom left before being arrested.
But during the city crew's lunch break, seven Jungle residents returned, carried many of their belongings back up Beacon Hill, and gave themselves up for arrest as motorists slowed to watch and news helicopters hovered overhead.
A King County Jail official said those arrested were expected to be charged with criminal trespassing and would face a judge today.
The Seattle Housing and Resource Effort, which sponsored the encampment with another group and provided Jungle residents with mattresses, food, portable toilets and regular visits from a nurse, could not give detailed comment yesterday, its most vocal members being among those arrested.
As those arrested were sitting in jail last night, Councilman Peter Steinbrueck said he had toured the encampment, and seen it as a "successful statement" about the inadequacy of Seattle's shelters.
"There is an imbalance as far as the number of homeless and our shelter capacity," said Steinbrueck, who said he and Councilman Nick Licata lobbied for a delay in demolition. "We need to amplify (information about) the problems of the homeless. It's a problem that's not going to go away overnight."
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