A gunman killed two people at a Seattle homeless camp Tuesday night while the city's mayor gave a televised address about tackling the city's homeless crisis across town.
Just as Mayor Ed Murray addressed the public at a newly built homeless shelter in north Seattle, gunshots rang out in the city's south. An unknown assailant had killed two homeless people in a tent in a camp called "the Jungle," according to The Washington Post.
"I hear your frustrations, and I share them,” Murray said, minutes before he was informed of the shooting. “People are dying on our streets. We are working on a complex problem in real time.”
His message Tuesday night was a plea for the public to help fund the local government's $50 million plan to reduce homelessness. The mayor had declared a state of emergency in November after 66 homeless people died countywide during 2015 amid a homeless population that had skyrocketed by 21 percent since the year before.
On Tuesday, he announced the city's plan to combat homelessness and violence among the homeless this year by adding shelters and "safe lots" for people living in their cars. He then listed off a few glaring statistics about the state of homelessness in the area. My Northwest reports:
- Before the Great Recession there were 13,000 school-aged children who were homeless in Washington state; that number is now 32,000
- There are currently approximately 3,000 school-aged children in Seattle that are homeless
- African Americans and Native Americans are five times more likely to be homeless [than the population as a whole]
- In the last five years, Washington has lost 1/3 of federal funding for affordable housing
- Washington state has the second highest rate of mental illness
- Washington state ranked 46th in the nation for access to inpatient psychiatric care
- Death by heroin overdose rose by 60 percent over the past two years
After the speech, he reacted to the shooting by asking reporters, "did I act too late?"
"Maybe I should have issued the state of emergency months earlier," he said, according to The Washington Post. "We have tried to do the best we can, given the circumstances we’ve been given. Obviously I’m going to ask if I did a good enough job. It’s on me in the end.”
To some Seattle residents, he didn't act soon enough. Some called the "blatant lawlessness" of the homeless camps egregious and said the police response to violence there was inadequate. Critics have also called for increased security and a better city response plan, according to the Seattle Times.
Murray hopes his new plan will start to curb a problem that he says has been “unmanageable and out of control” for almost 20 years.
As of Wednesday morning, police were still searching for suspects in Tuesday's shooting, according to reports.
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