UW News

November 13, 2020

Addressing homelessness: UW to welcome back Tent City 3 for winter quarter 2021

UW News

The UW will again host Tent City 3 beginning Dec. 19. In this photo, taken in 2017, work is underway to construct the encampment.University of Washington

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. The numbers have only increased during the pandemic.

As one part of its response to this population health crisis, the University of Washington will welcome back Tent City 3 — an organized tent-city community — on its Seattle campus for 90 days during winter quarter 2021. Move-in is scheduled to begin Dec. 19.

The UW previously hosted Tent City 3 in winter 2017, in the same location it will be next quarter: parking lot W35, situated between John M. Wallace Hall and the Fishery Sciences buildings off Northeast 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,” said Sally J. Clark, director of regional and community relations. “While organized tent cities are not a solution to homelessness, they do provide safe shelter while people seek out support on the road to stable housing.”

Tent City 3 will provide safe, secure temporary housing for up to 70 people, while at UW. The number reflects a lower density to allow for social distancing and other COVID-19 precautions.

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

The UW believes that 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 community helps reduce their risk of being crime victims, which is more likely to happen to people experiencing homelessness. Tent City 3 has previously been based in the University District, including across the street from the UW campus, a number of times in recent years.

Tent City 3’s code of conduct bans 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 Seattle Housing and Resource Effort or SHARE, which oversees Tent City 3, have created a new safety, hygiene and security plan and signed an agreement setting out mutual responsibilities during the hosting period.

“Access to safe and clean places to live, even temporarily, for all Seattle residents is critical to addressing health issues among homeless people,” Clark said. “COVID-19 makes that access even more important.”

Tent City 3 has been successfully implementing measures to maintain social distancing and sanitation standards within the encampment, officials said. 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 will submit a COVID-19 prevention and mitigation plan to the UW by Dec. 1.

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

During Tent City 3’s stay in 2017, residents provided lived-experience guidance to UW students and faculty. 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, Clark said.

In 2017, 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 Tent City 3 residents. These programs included:

  • dental clinic to provide oral health care to residents
  • The first regularly scheduled music program in an encampment
  • A 10-week MEDEX course where students learned directly from people experiencing homelessness — the first such program in the nation
  • foot care clinic and potluck dinner with nursing students
  • Preparing meals and learning about inequitable access to nutritious food

This year’s academic interactions with Tent City 3 are likely to be held virtually due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

To learn more about this partnership between the UW and Tent City 3, email regional@uw.edu.

To learn more about the UW’s broader work on homelessness, visit Urban@UW’s Homelessness Research Initiative.

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