Regional & Community Relations

Welcoming back Tent City 3 to the UW

Volunteers help raise a tent during Tent City 3's move-in

Students, faculty and staff helped residents set up Tent City 3 – community building in the literal and figurative sense – in December 2016

Homelessness is a crisis in Washington and across the U.S. Last year, an annual count revealed that in King County alone, 11,200 people reported being homeless at the time of the survey.

As one part of the community’s response to this population health crisis, the University of Washington welcomes back Tent City 3 — an organized tent-city community — on its Seattle campus for 90 days during winter quarter 2021. The UW previously hosted Tent City 3 in winter 2017. Tent City 3 is being hosted in the same location as it was in 2017, in parking lot W35, situated between John M. Wallace Hall and the Fishery Sciences buildings off NE Pacific Street.

Welcoming back Tent City 3 aligns with UW’s public mission and its commitment to helping solve the challenges of our city, state and world.

While organized tent cities are not a solution to homelessness, they do provide safe shelter where people can sleep, eat and keep their belongings during work and appointments. Tent City 3 provides safe, secure temporary housing to individuals, couples and families, rotating locations every three months.

A program evaluation by the School of Public Health found Tent City 3’s 2017 stay was a success thanks to the planning, partnership and generous spirit of encampment residents and UW students, faculty, staff and alumni. To learn more about the UW’s broader work on homelessness, visit Urban@UW’s Homelessness Research Initiative.

Maintaining a safe, strong partnership for 2021

The renewed partnership results from engagement by the Tent City Collective — a group of UW students, alumni and Tent City 3 residents who worked with faculty, academic departments and local civic leaders to bring Tent City 3 to the UW for a second time.

Tent City 3 remains a valued partner due to its code of conduct and strong reputation for providing a safe and secure home for its residents. Many residents are employed, and many are families with children. For these families, and all of the residents, the tent city helps reduce their risk of being crime victims, which is more likely to happen to people experiencing homelessness. Tent City 3 has been based in the University District, including at times across the street from the UW campus, a number of times in recent years.

Tent City 3’s code of conduct includes bans on alcohol, drugs, weapons, violence and open fires. All prospective Tent City residents are checked for sex offender status; individuals on the registry cannot stay. The UW and SHARE, which oversees Tent City 3, created a new safety, hygiene and security plan and signed an agreement setting out responsibilities during the hosting period.

The encampment relies on fundraisers by the Tent City Collective, as well as donations from individuals, student groups and professional organizations. The UW does not use tuition or taxpayer dollars for hosting.

Learning from and with our neighbors

Members of the UW community — students, staff, faculty and neighbors — have much to learn about the complex issues surrounding homelessness. During Tent City 3’s stay in 2017, residents provided generous and inspiring guidance to UW students and faculty. The presence of Tent City 3 neighbors builds connections between unhoused community members and the UW.

During the 2017 hosting, eight courses incorporated homelessness and housing issues into their curriculums, ranging from English and Environmental Studies to Public Policy and Health Services. Tent City 3’s previous stay also involved service days facilitated by units, professional organizations and student groups across campus, with the support of the residents of Tent City 3. These programs included:

Next steps for 2021

During TC3’s stay, the UW’s project advisory committee meets weekly to re-evaluate a full range of issues related to security, safety, health and sanitation to ensure the well-being of all TC3 residents along with neighboring communities.

The UW and TC3 signed a memorandum of agreement for 2021 hosting.

The framework for community-engaged learning opportunities in collaboration with encampment residents is led by the Community Engagement and Leadership Education (CELE) Center (formerly known as the Carlson Leadership & Public Service Center).

Contact information

If you’d like to learn more about this partnership, email regional@uw.edu.

The Tent City Collective is organizing volunteers and fundraisers: visit them on Facebook or email tentcity@uw.edu.