Officials at the University of Washington (UW) are “looking closely” at two potential sites for a tent encampment that could come to campus in the winter quarter of 2017, although a final decision on whether or not to host the homeless community has not been announced.
UW is considering the sites to host Tent City 3, a community of 100 people experiencing homelessness. The sites are on the west side of campus, specifically lot W41 near Condon Hall to the north and W35 near the Fisheries building to the south.
The Tent City Collective, a group advocating for a tent city on UW campus, included the two sites in six areas the group originally considered for an encampment.
The university is expected to formally announce if it will host the tent encampment toward the end of the current quarter, which ends on June 10, said Sally Clark, spokesperson for UW.
Officials with the university have been collecting public comment for several months. President Ana Mari Cauce announced that the campus was open to the idea of hosting Tent City 3 on March 31 and held a series of public meetings on April 11 and 12.
On April 11, Clark and members of the Tent City Collective — a group of current students, alumni and Tent City 3 residents that has been advocating to bring the encampment to campus for almost three years —introduced the project and fielded questions for almost two hours from an audience that gathered at the University Congregational United Church of Christ.
The church is currently hosting Tent City 3.
Community members at that event raised concerns about safety, with one mother concerned that the tent city could be located next to UW’s campus child care center.
Others said that they were worried that the university was moving forward without evidence that Tent City 3’s model of transitional housing works to reduce homelessness.
Members of the church’s congregation spoke on behalf of Tent City 3, highlighting improved security at the site. The church has hosted the community four times, but the initial decision to bring them to the site was difficult, said Liz Gilbert, a member of the church’s Homeless Action Team.
“For us to get to yes it was quite a process, too,” Gilbert said.
If Tent City 3 comes to the UW campus, it will be the third campus to host the community. The previous two — Seattle Pacific University and Seattle University — are both private institutions with a religious affiliation, which gave them flexibility to host the community.
Under Washington state law, religious institutions can use their properties to host homeless encampments indefinitely.
The city of Seattle codified the ability for large educational institutions such as UW to do the same, but made room for only three such authorized encampments.
That cap was met when Nickelsville and the Low Income Housing Institute opened their newest tiny house community in Othello in March. That means that the campus needs a temporary-use permit to host the encampment, which would be valid for one academic quarter.
In that time, faculty and some schools on the campus have been making plans for curriculum built around the encampment to educate students on homelessness and bring medical and case management services to the Tent City 3 residents who want them.