Tacoma Dome business leaders are pressing state officials to come up with a firm plan to clear out the growing homeless encampment underneath the Interstate 5 and Interstate 705 corridor known as the Tacoma Jungle.
Business leaders took Washington State Department of Transportation and city officials on a tour of the Tacoma Jungle Monday afternoon.
"This issue has gotten big, and we want to get the rest of our community leaders to see how big it’s become,” said Shylah Hales, who works in downtown Tacoma. “It doesn't stay here; it pushes out onto the business where we’re asking people to leave our doorstep. It's just gotten really bad."
The encampment has grown to more than 100 people over the last couple of months, and the trash and the needles are piling up. The increased trash has brought rats around the historic candy factory, according to Brown and Haley Vice President David Armstrong
"Should we have people underneath our bridges?” Armstrong asked WSDOT officials Monday afternoon. “You know there are signs up that say no trespassing. Why put a sign up if you're not going to enforce it?"
While the Jungle is in the City of Tacoma, the encampment is technically on WSDOT owned land.
"It's a bigger problem than one agency can handle on its own," said Troy Cowan, WSDOT assistant regional administrator for maintenance and operations.
Tacoma City Council Councilman Robert Toms attended the walk through and said he’s working to get the city to increase funding for homeless remediation and enforcement issues.
“We need to have a better engagement policy for our police who serve our city so well, and from what I can tell are challenged but a policy environment that doesn't focus on addressing the very real crimes and violators that are on the streets,” Toms said. “Our police should be able to better engage on this issue, and I am confident with policy makers providing our police with clearer direction and adequate resources they are ready to tackle the issue without reservation.”
The City's homeless outreach manager, Colin DeForrest, said there needs to be a larger plan to help the homeless people get access to services and housing. In the meantime he’s working with WSDOT to notify people that they'll need to move out by the end of this month.
"We need to find a safe place for all of these individuals regardless of their walk in life to go, because at the end of the day they need to sleep somewhere and they need to be somewhere safe,” DeForrest said. “This isn't a safe place to be."
That’s when WSDOT says their crews will come in.
"Our crews will be here the first week of May, painting removing the debris, whatever debris is left behind, repairing the fencing, and leaving this in a good position walking away," said Cowan.