Seattle just opened its third “authorized homeless encampment” in the wake of the city’s state-of-emergency homelessness crisis. Three “encampments” exist for the homeless in Seattle, in Ballard and Interbay, which opened last November, and Rainier Valley, which opened this week.
The encampments, known as “tent cities,” are comprised of tents and “tiny homes” that volunteers painted in bright colors. View photo gallery.
The newest tent city in Rainier Valley has portable toilets, a kitchen, some other amenities, and is paved with gravel. The tents and tiny homes have heat and electricity; some are made out of shipping containers.
The Low Income Housing Institute helps operate the tent cities, but Seattle’s mayor Ed Murray, paid a “nationally known” consultant, Barbara Poppe, $80,000 to advise the city to stop building these tent cities. Poppe consulted part-time for nine months and visited three times.
Poppe led Obama’s “homelessness” initiatives from 2009 to 2014 heading the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness. The Council opposes encampments, arguing they are distractions that prevent helping people find permanent housing.
“Encampments are a real distraction from investing in solutions,” Poppe stated publicly. “You can see it takes a lot of energy to get them running and they don’t solve the problem. You still have people who are visibly homeless, living outdoors.”
Despite her advice, Seattle’s City Council, approved by the Mayor, passed an ordinance authorizing three encampments that could house up to 100 people each, including children. These tent cities, the legislators described, were a “stopgap measure” and alternative for people already living on the street.
The Seattle Times reports that Seattle is one of the first cities in the country to help nonprofit organizations like Housing-First, which provides immediate access to permanent housing. Seattle’s Downtown Emergency Service Center manages nearly 1,000 units of supportive housing; the Plymouth Housing Group manages almost 1,000 units in Seattle and King County.