Office of the President

March 31, 2016

Seeking your feedback on hosting Tent City 3

Ana Mari Cauce

Our city is facing a crisis. Thousands of our neighbors are forced to make their homes in doorways or under bridges since they lack affordable housing. Consistent with our public mission, the University of Washington has been seeking solutions to the homelessness crisis through scholarship and service. But we have an opportunity to do more.

Earlier this year, I commissioned a working group to assess the feasibility of hosting an organized tent city encampment on the Seattle campus for 90 days during the 2017 winter quarter. Tent cities are by no means a permanent answer for homelessness, but they do provide a safe place for residents to live as they seek stable housing. This working group met with representatives from Tent City 3, Seattle city government, community organizations and members of the Tent City Collective, as well as with colleagues from Seattle Pacific University and Seattle University, both of which hosted Tent City 3 on their campuses and found hosting to be a valuable educational experience for their students.

I want to single out the Tent City Collective for particular praise. Its members, which include UW students, alumni and Tent City 3 residents, have been steadfast advocates for our neighbors facing homelessness. They have also made many connections with faculty and departments eager to incorporate service learning into their curricula via the opportunities hosting an encampment would present.

The conclusion of the working group is that hosting an encampment is feasible, provided that we have community support; connect with an experienced, responsible organizer; make a decision early enough for faculty to incorporate relevant service learning into their curricula; and have detailed plans for security, safety, health and sanitation to ensure the well-being of residents and community members. Participation in UW activities related to hosting would be voluntary for our students, just as they would be for encampment residents.

I am now seeking your feedback on whether the UW should step forward and host Tent City 3 — which has an extensive track record and clear code of conduct for residents — during the 2017 winter quarter.

No taxpayer or tuition funds would be used to host the encampment, which would be limited to no more than 100 residents. There are several locations under consideration, which you can view on the Regional and Community Relations site.

There will be two open houses where you can learn more:

  • Monday, April 11: 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at University Congregational United Church of Christ, 4515 16th Ave. NE
  • Tuesday, April 12: Noon to 2 p.m. in Room 250 of the HUB

You can also share your thoughts by emailing regional@uw.edu. The goal is to make a decision by the end of the academic year in order to provide time for logistical and curricular planning.

Service to our community is central to our mission, as is providing students with experiences that help them become educated, engaged citizens. Informed feedback from the campus community and from nearby residents and businesses is vital as we consider whether to host Tent City 3, and I look forward to hearing your thoughts.