Tent City 3 could be coming to the University of Washington (UW) campus as soon as winter quarter of 2017, university leadership announced March 31.
In an email to the university community, university President Ana Mari Cauce asked students, parents, donors and alumni to weigh in on the proposal, which would bring long-established Tent City 3 to the campus for 90 days.
Cauce came forward with the proposal after months of conversation with a UW working group that met with members of Tent City 3, local government, a student group advocating for hosting a tent encampment and representatives of Seattle Pacific University (SPU) and Seattle University.
The latter two schools hosted Tent City 3 in the past.
The announcement is a major coup for Tent City Collective, a coalition of Tent City 3 residents, students and supporters, who have
been working for three years to build support across the university to bring the encampment to campus.
It offers an opportunity to reduce the stigma surrounding people experiencing homelessness, said Leigh Friedman, a senior and member of Tent City Collective and Associated Students of the University of Washington.
“Hopefully, by living and learning alongside TC3 residents, we will be able to work together to develop sustainable long-term solutions that address the daily struggles of families and individuals that have been displaced by economic hardship,” Friedman said.
The project is focused on learning. Tent City Collective worked with academics on campus to develop proposals of classes or projects to do with Tent City 3 residents.
Tent City 3’s time at SPU — first in 2012 and again in winter of 2015 — went so smoothly that leadership expressed an interest in bringing the community to campus at least once every four years, said Niki Amarantides, director of the Center for Learning and former co-chair of the Tent City 3 committee at SPU.
“Both times with encampment here, students responded in a huge way going into the camp, inviting Tent City 3 to have a night of board games or doing spoken word poetry group. The library invited them in to watch the Super Bowl,” Amarantides said. “The number of student, church and community groups that came in to provide meals was kind of astonishing.”
The campus felt safer and cleaner with the residents there keeping a watchful eye and running litter details, Amarantides said.
Unlike Seattle University and Seattle Pacific University, UW is not a religious institution and doesn’t have free rein to host a tent encampment.
A 2015 ordinance passed by the Seattle City Council allows three sanctioned tent encampments in Seattle. These can be located on city property, private property or property owned by a major educational institution, said Kimberly Mills, communications director for the Seattle City Attorney’s office.
Those spaces have been allotted to Nickelsville in Ballard, Tent City 5 in Interbay near 17th Avenue West and West Dravus Street and the newly opened Nickelsville Othello in Southeast Seattle.
That doesn’t preclude UW from opening a camp, but it does mean that the university will have to get an interim-use permit or a temporary-use permit, which limits the longevity of the camp to between three and six months.
There are six sites under review for Tent City 3, mainly parking lots spread around the campus. The space would accommodate no more than 100 campers and would be located close to transportation and sanitation facilities.
Security would be provided by the university.
No intoxication, drugs or violence would be allowed, and prospective residents would be checked against a sex offender registry, according to the university’s website.
The camp is expected to cost between $20,000 and $40,000, said Sally Clark, director of Regional and Community Relations at UW. No tuition money will go toward the effort, she said.