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UW to host Tent City 3 for 90 days in winter 2017

Earlier this year, I wrote to our community about the crisis facing thousands of our neighbors; a crisis that forces many individuals and families to live under bridges, or in cars and doorways.

Tent City 3 hosting

Preferred location: Parking lot W35

Parking lot W35

When: 90 days in 2017 winter quarter

  • Community feedback 2-to-1 in favor
  • Organizer must meet safety and operations plan requirements and a city permit must be obtained
  • No taxpayer or tuition funds will be used
  • Consistent with TC3 code of conduct, no weapons, alcohol, drugs or violence will be allowed, and security will be coordinated with UWPD
  • Faculty encouraged, but not required, to incorporate service learning into courses
  • Participation in related activities will be voluntary for students and residents

More information

As part of our educational mission and existing work to address homelessness, I asked you whether the UW should host an organized tent city during the 2017 winter quarter. This would build on and respond to the work of students, alumni and residents from the Tent City Collective, and on the positive Tent City 3 hosting experiences of Seattle University and Seattle Pacific University.

Tent City 3 is also the community we’re considering. In fact, they have literally been across the street from us this spring at University Congregational United Church of Christ, NE 45th Street and 15th Avenue NE, providing safe, secure housing to individuals and families.

Nearly 1,000 of you e-mailed thoughts and dozens more attended the town hall meetings. By a 2-to-1 margin responses and attendees favored hosting. Faculty and departments have expressed eagerness to incorporate service learning into curricula, and local elected officials and community leaders also support the effort.

The UW will therefore proceed with plans to host, contingent on the safety and operations plan we establish being effectively implemented and on permit approval by the City of Seattle. We will not use any taxpayer or tuition funds to support this work.

I appreciate the thoughtful nature of your feedback, including concerns that were raised, primarily about safety, parking and the connection to our educational mission. As we plan for hosting next winter, we are taking those concerns into account.

Tent City 3 is an organized community with a strict code of conduct that prohibits weapons, violence, drugs and alcohol. Many residents have jobs, and often families with small children stay there because it is a safe, secure place. It’s important to remember that people facing homelessness are more vulnerable to being victims of crime. For the safety of all members of our community – permanently housed or not – UWPD will closely coordinate with the 24/7 security already conducted by Tent City 3.

The working group I commissioned studied a wide range of sites, with consideration for safety; transit access; logistics; privacy for residents; the need for a hard, level surface; and access for students and faculty who choose to participate in hosting-related learning opportunities.

Based on these criteria, parking lot W35 is the preferred location. Sally Clark, director of regional and community relations, met with faculty, staff and students from adjacent units, and consulted with organizers of the expanded UW childcare center that will be two blocks east. No issues have arisen that would preclude a portion of W35 being used to host Tent City 3, and we will continue these meetings and work to minimize any logistical disruptions.

I recognize some of you may still have concerns and trepidation. That is fair and expected. I only ask that we approach hosting with open minds and take this opportunity to learn from the experiences of our neighbors.

Our educational mission and role as a public university call us to find innovative ways to teach, learn and serve. It is my firm belief as a teacher, a scholar who has studied these issues, and a citizen of our community that hosting Tent City 3 is wholly consistent with our mission. I look forward to continuing this process so that next winter we can join together in welcoming our neighbors to campus.