Murder in the Jungle: The Brutal Killings That Woke Seattle Up to Its Homeless Crisis

Jim is homeless, jobless, and living under the freeway in a primitive Seattle homeless encampment called the Jungle. This morning, he’s standing near a crime scene where two people were recently shot to death and three others wounded. A trio of teenage brothers, allegedly sent by their mother to collect a drug debt, have been charged with the killings.

“Could have been me killed,” said Jim, who didn’t want to give a last name. With a bedroll under his arm, the wiry, lightly bearded camper added that, all things considered, the double homicide might actually be a blessing. Seattle officials responded to the incident by flooding the Jungle with police and social workers, who are now offering health care and housing.

“There are cops and welfare types all over the place now,” Jim said. “Maybe they’ll find us a place to stay and shut this dump down.”

His take makes it nearly unanimous: The mayor, police officials, politicians, and seemingly all of Seattle agrees that the Jungle should be cleared out.

The encampment, a series of secluded, earthen warrens, is roughly three blocks long and sits south of downtown under the I-5 freeway that cuts through the middle of the city. Wishful views of wealth — skyscrapers, stadiums, and private jets landing at nearby Boeing Field — are visible through a tangle of trees. With dirt floors, a concrete ceiling, and fire pits, the Jungle is an overnight stop for some and a home of sorts for those who can make do with salvaged furniture. Steps away is a drug-dealing niche called the Cave.