A shooting at a Seattle homeless encampment has left two people dead, underscoring concerns about the growing problem of homelessness in the Emerald City, MSN is reporting.
Just as Seattle mayor Ed Murray was concluding a speech Tuesday night on the burgeoning problem of homelessness in Seattle, news broke that two homeless people in “The Jungle” had been shot and killed in what police describe as a “very targeted” shooting.
After Seattle mayor delivers speech on homelessness, he’s told of shooting with multiple victims at a homeless camp: https://t.co/5tLmHLU6UM
— KING 5 News (@KING5Seattle) January 27, 2016
Three other people, two of whom were women, were injured in the shooting. The suspects remain at large.
— Gary Horcher (@GaryKIRO7) January 27, 2016
For over 20 years, The Jungle, a tent city in a wooded area in the city, has served as a sort-of city-within-a-city of homeless people in Seattle. Residents there range from down-on-their-luck vagrants to lifetime drug addicts and everything in between. Depending on who you ask, The Jungle is either a godsend for an already vulnerable population or a menace that needs to be dealt with immediately if not sooner.
Homeless advocate Craig Thompson takes the view that the residents there are vulnerable to victimization – from the police, each other, and outside criminals.
“The Jungle is not a homeless camp. The woods have historically contained camps of people…. When cleanups, sweeps or whatever you want to call them have been suspended, people living in the woods have been victimized by violent criminals. Sometimes, those criminals have been other homeless people; sometimes by those in the narcotics trade.”
Neighbor Nicole Brodeur, however, views The Jungle, and other homeless encampments, as blights upon the community.
“You don’t want to go down there,” Nicole Brodeur wrote in the Seattle Times in 2007. “Not even in broad daylight, and certainly not alone…. Homeless encampments are a health hazard, not only for those who live in them, but for neighbors concerned with their safety, and the rats and campfires that threaten their homes.”
Neighbor Angie Gerrald, similarly, is tired of illegally-parked RV’s, blatant drug deals, and piles of used needles. And worst of all, she’s tired of the police looking the other way at the problem.
“The blatant lawlessness has been a whole new era. There is so little response — so little they [police] can and will do about it.”
In fact, some Seattle residents are so fed up with homelessness, property crimes, and drug crimes taking place in and around their neighborhoods, as well as police inaction, that they have taken to hiring private security companies and off-duty cops to patrol their neighborhoods, according to the Seattle Times.
Neighbor Brad Renton doesn’t fault the Seattle police, but he says the city’s crime problem has gotten too out of hand.
“SPD is a wonderful group of guys. They’re just getting overwhelmed. You’d like them to be there for you, and they are there, but they have to be there for the important stuff [instead of property and drug crimes].”
Inside The Jungle and outside of it, the homeless population in Seattle has exploded in recent years. In the mid-2000s, there were an estimated 13,000 homeless children in the state of Washington. Today, that number is an estimate 32,000. At least 3,000 homeless children are enrolled in Seattle’s public schools.
And as Mayor Murray explains, the problem is not going away.
“We see the tents under freeways, rundown RVs in our neighborhoods, people on the sidewalks with signs that read ‘disabled veteran, anything helps.’ This is what income inequality looks like. This is what a disappearing middle class looks like.”
As of this writing, Seattle police have not released descriptions of the suspects in the homeless encampment shooting, as they are still interviewing witnesses.
[Image via Shutterstock/Am2 Antonio Battista]