Organized tent cities provide safe, secure places for homeless people to stay as they look for work and more permanent housing situations. Tent City 3 (TC3) began operating in 2000 and hosts up to 100 adults and children in one communal encampment. TC3 stayed at the UW in 2017 and 2021. TC3 has also been hosted by Seattle University and Seattle Pacific University as well as churches near the UW on a number of occasions.
The UW is hosting Tent City 3 for 90 days in Winter Quarter 2023.
Hosting Tent City 3 responds to this community-wide crisis in a way that fits UW’s public mission, which includes a commitment to solving challenges of our city, state and world. Already, UW faculty, students and staff are engaged in a range of activities — from research on root causes and solutions to volunteering with organizations like the Tent City Collective — to address homelessness.
After two residencies in UW’s W35 parking lot, Tent City 3 will move to parking lot E21 adjacent to the Waterfront Activities Center. The move is necessary because W35 is going to be used as the temporary home for UW’s Haring Center while the Haring Center’s home building undergoes renovations. After working with the UW’s Facilities team to review potential locations on campus, E21 was selected. E21 meets TC3’s minimum criteria for 10,000 square feet of relatively flat hardscape with proximity to electricity, water and transit.
The UW uses only private funds specifically raised by the student-organized Tent City Collective and Tent City 3 to host the encampment. The UW does not use any tuition dollars or taxpayer money for this mission-driven work.
Hosting TC3 creates transformative learning experiences for UW students and provides opportunities to make connections with teaching and scholarship. During the COVID-19 pandemic, UW Academic Affairs works to ensure meaningful engagement with the TC3 community that follows public health guidelines, such as allowing for physical distancing. Students wishing to support the encampment have opportunities to take part in experiential learning around housing and homelessness as well as volunteering through the Tent City Collective.
The UW’s top priority is the safety of students, employees and Tent City 3 residents. Tent City 3 is an organized community with a strict code of conduct that prohibits drugs, alcohol, violence and sex offenders. UWPD and Tent City 3 partner on a security plan pertaining to the hosting that includes 24/7 site monitoring by TC3 residents in coordination with UWPD.
Access to safe, clean and reliable housing for all Seattle residents is critical for addressing the spread of COVID-19 in the local community. Tent City 3 has been successfully implementing measures to maintain social distancing and sanitation standards within the encampment. In the event of a positive COVID-19 test, Public Health – Seattle & King County is responsible for contact tracing, quarantine and isolation. Tent City 3 also submitted a COVID-19 prevention and mitigation plan to the UW by December 1.
An evaluation conducted following the UW’s hosting of TC3 in 2017 showed that the presence of the TC3 community had a positive impact on feelings of community safety, due to the security practices of tent cities and strict codes of conduct followed by their residents.
Tent cities provide a critically important resource during longer-term work to end homelessness. In King County, around 11, 751 people experienced homelessness in 2020, about 40 percent of who lacked access to emergency shelter beds. Finding a safe place to sleep every night is exhausting and leaves little room for anything else. Tent cities provide a reliable, safe place for people to stay, allowing residents to focus on searching for work, finding more permanent housing, and other priorities.