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Addressing homelessness

Hosting Tent City 3 at 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. In 2019, 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 will again welcome back Tent City 3 — an organized tent-city community — on its Seattle campus for 90 days during winter quarter 2023. Tent City 3 hosted approximately 40-60 people the past two residencies on the UW campus, in 2017 and 2021, on a lot near the Fishery Sciences buildings. During their winter 2023 stay, the tent-city community will be located in the E-21 parking lot, next to the UW Waterfront Activities Center.

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 2023

The renewed partnership resulted 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.

Students, faculty and staff joined Tent City 3 residents to help the community move inA student helps lift a tent during Tent City 3's December move-in dayA look inside Tent City 3's food pantryA note from Romeo, a 5th grader who donated food to Tent City 3

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:

Charlotte Sanders, MSW, and Lois Thetford, PA-C, speak with Tent City 3 resident Art.A team from the School of Dentistry cares for a patient during a clinicTwo dentistry students care for a patient during a Husky Health Bridge clinicA student from the School of Nursing cares for a resident during a foot care clinicTent City 3 residents and students, faculty and staff from the School of Nursing at a potluck dinner

Preparations for hosting in 2023

During TC3’s stay, the UW’s project advisory committee will meet weekly to 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.

As with previous residencies at UW, the TC3 community and UW will develop an agreement regarding rights and responsibilities during TC3’s stay, including a safety plan.

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

Sign at the entrance to Tent City 3Rows of tents at Tent City 3Entrance to Tent City 3 at the UWAdministrative and check-in tentTent City 3's security patrol checks on a tent

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.