Seattle Mayor Ed Murray wants to open up city land for three new tent cities. The mayor’s staff briefed a city council committee on the plan on Tuesday.
The plan comes in the wake of the recent one-night-count. It found the number of people living on the streets of Seattle went up about 20 percent last year.
KUOW’s Joshua McNichols went to a tent city and has this report.
Tent City 3 sits on the campus of Seattle Pacific University.
Jeff Roderick lives there, and he’s working security today. He gives me a quick tour.
RODERICK: “Let’s see who’s around…”
For the most part, the tents look the same. But the residents show a little bit of individuality by giving their tents funny names.
RODERICK: "Yeah, we even have one called Bozo’s Nightmare. He’s a great guy. Real quiet, real laid back guy. He has the funniest name on the tent, I like that."
KUOW: "What’s the story about Bozo’s Nightmare?"
RODERICK: "I have no idea. I’m afraid someday if I ask him he might tell me!"
Roderick introduces me to Hannah Webb, who just moved here from Missouri.
She was looking for a safe place to land after her life blew up.
She found community and romance.
WEBB: "I met someone! I just started talking to one of the guys around camp. And we pretty much spent three days barely sleeping, walking around the canal.”
There’s another kind of romance brewing in Seattle.
A budding relationship between city government -- and tent cities like this one.
It was just over six years ago that Seattle’s then-Mayor Greg Nickels was clearing out tent cities.
Now, Mayor Ed Murray and city Councilmember Mike O’Brien want to expand officially sanctioned tent cities.
By opening up city land as potential sites for three new tent cities.
That’ll double the number of officially sanctioned encampments.
(Note: Washington State Department of Transportation, with help from Seattle Police, have been evicting residents from unofficial encampments recently).
O’Brien admits tent cities aren’t a very dignified way to house people.
O’BRIEN: "Ultimately we want to get people back into stable permanent housing. But the population of people living without shelter on the street continues to go up.
"And so we have find some interim steps. And it’s not something I’m proud of that the best we can do is tents for some folks, but let’s acknowledge that it’s reality and deal with it as best we can."
The city hasn’t decided yet what kind of land would be best for tent cities.
O’Brien says parks are off limits.
And it’s more likely to happen under city-owned bridges – than in public plazas.
In the long run, he’s working on other ways to generate more money for affordable housing.
As for the plan to open city land to tent cities, the council will take public comments on the evening of Feb. 26th.