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South Seattle Homeless Camp Worries Some Residents

A new homeless encampment in South Seattle is set to open Tuesday, March 8, near the Othello light rail station. It will have room for up to a hundred people, on-site counseling and a children's play area.

It’s called Othello Village and it’s in Seattle Council District 2 – Bruce Harrell’s district.

Harrell said many neighbors welcome the encampment. But others view it as a burden on a historically impoverished area.

"You will hear, I'm sure, angry residents saying, 'Look once again the city's dumping,'" Harrell said. "I hear some pretty derogatory statements about people living in some of the encampments and 'the city's forcing them in on our area.' And I just won't succumb to that."

Harrell disagrees with comments that South Seattle is a so-called dumping ground for homeless services. He said the area benefits from generous investments in schools and community development.

The Low Income Housing Institute is hosting Othello Village. The organization sent letters and held a public meeting last month to lay out plans and address neighborhood concerns. Harrell held a follow-up meeting Thursday night. He said the goal of the second meeting just days before Othello Village was set to open was not intended to derail the project, but to get more questions answered.

"Well number one, there was a proposed site in the Sodo area and there never was a satisfactory explanation about why that site was not feasible," Harrell said. "The other issue would be whether it's a done deal, so to speak."

Harrell said residents have also raised concerns about how the city will deal with issues like drug use or loitering.

LIHI aims to build low-income apartments on the property within a few years. But in the interim, it plans to open this temporary tent camp to help homeless families.

Othello Village is the third and final "transitional encampment" site allowed under a city ordinance passed last year. It’s part of the city’s crisis response to homelessness and a shortage of emergency shelter beds.