A homeless encampment sanctioned by the city of Seattle is hoping to have its permit extended for another year.
City officials say the tiny house village in the Licton Springs neighborhood is meeting its contractual goals.
Between March and December of 2017, the camp helped 79 homeless men and women. During the same time period, 27 people exited the program. Of those who left, 13 were placed in permanent housing. The others either went into rehab or to another shelter or city encampment, or the city lost track of them. At least one person went to prison, according to a city official.
The Licton Springs site is the only city-funded encampment where residents don't have to be sober. And officials say the gated community, with 24-hour staffing and security, provides stability for some of the city’s most vulnerable people.
John Roberts is a resident at the tiny house village. He told neighbors at a community meeting that the camp has given him hope and an opportunity to stabilize.
"Licton Springs is a beautiful place. It really is. And at the beginning of everything that takes place in life it does not always turn out to be good in the beginning, but give it some time. Give it hope," he said.
“The Licton Springs village has done a lot for me and I just want you to know that. And I hope that you consider this program going forward and doing the best that it can do.”
Other residents also spoke, asking the community to support the camp and support an extension of its permit.
But some neighbors have concerns. Jim and Marilyn Sullivan have lived in the area for 25 years. Speaking at the meeting earlier this week, Jim Sullivan said he understands the camp is helping people who need services, but he said he sees negative impacts in the neighborhood.
"Our crime rate has increased tenfold: Car prowls, assaults, drug activity, needles. Not only car prowls, but going into peoples' garages, going into peoples' homes, going into their yards," he said.
His concerns were echoed by other community members who feel they’ve been abandoned by the city and the police department.
Seattle police officials say crime has increased, but calls from the area are within expected levels for a five-year average.
Additionally, they say officers have increased their presence in the neighborhood over the past year, taking it upon themselves to do more patrols through the stretch near the camp.
Community members insisted SPD’s account of things doesn’t match their experience. “There is a drastic increase in crime and there is a drastic decrease in people from the city caring about this area,” one resident said.
But crime isn’t the only issue that was cited. A representative from Seattle Public Utilities said there have been more than 300 illegal trash dumping reports in the past year along the Aurora Ave North-Nesbit Ave North corridor between 85th and 90th Streets North. Since January there have also been about 38 calls to pick up needles along that corridor.
Residents and operators of the encampment say they help to clean up trash in the neighborhood. And some community members warned that increases in trash and crime in the area may not be directly linked to the existence of the village.
Elizabeth Dahl, the executive director of Aurora Commons, supports the encampment and said it’s changing lives. She acknowledges the number of homeless people in the Licton Springs neighborhood has increased, but she urged community members to support solutions for the crisis, like the tiny house village.
“When people become stable, when they become housed, their need to be out there prowling in peoples’ yards and their areas and in their neighborhoods [...] goes down because they have shelter. And shelter provides much needed stability for people and we have seen that happen […] with people that have been housed in the village,” she said.
The city is accepting public comments about the encampment through April 5. Officials say they expect to make a decision about whether to extend the camp's permit within a couple of weeks.