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Tent City 3 concluding successful stay at the UW

Lizards outside a tent at Tent City 3 in February
When I visited TC3 in February, I was struck by the decorations outside this tent. The lizards reminded me of growing up in Miami where they were practically house pets. They sparked a conversation with the tent’s resident, during which I learned that, like me, he is of Cuban descent. This is just one very small example of the human connections that have been forged during residents’ stay.

This weekend, our neighbors in Tent City 3 (TC3) depart for their next location, this time in Skyway, having completed their planned 90-day stay here on the UW’s Seattle campus. The way our community embraced our neighbors and the learning and human experiences that took place have been fantastic to witness, and I want to thank everyone whose planning and hard work went into making their stay a successful one.

When students, alumni and TC3 residents in the Tent City Collective first proposed hosting a tent city on campus, a key factor in the decision-making process was whether there would be clear connections to the UW’s academic mission. That’s why I’m so pleased by the number of faculty and students who stepped forward to make this hosting a part of their teaching and learning.

At least eight courses in disciplines including public policy, environmental science, English and several health fields, as well as via the Honors Program, formally engaged with TC3 during the last three months. That’s in addition to other ways the UW and TC3 communities connected, ranging from clinics and outreach provided by students from Nursing, Dentistry, MEDEX and Public Health, to a drop-in art studio, to the many shared meals made possible by a range of units, professional organizations, student groups and individuals. You can read about many of these connections on the Addressing Homelessness page.

The stay faced challenges, not the least of which being the unusually cold winter. But those were no match for the openheartedness and ingenuity of individuals in departments from Facilities Services to ICA and IMA, the last of which opened up the Waterfront Activities Center as a warming center during the coldest part of the season.

One of the questions I received even as TC3 was arriving in December was “When will the UW host again?” Key to answering that question will be student involvement. The Tent City Collective did its homework and gathered support on and off campus before presenting a proposal. Students remained engaged and have done tremendous work, in addition to their class loads, in order to make the stay a success. Future hosting will be contingent on having that same level of student engagement. It’ll also be guided in part by the results of an evaluation – we are academics, after all, and evaluating a program is vital to improving it in the future – that a School of Public Health program evaluation course is conducting. You can contribute to that evaluation by taking this survey.

In the meantime, please remember that TC3’s residents – and the many other individuals and families in our community without reliable shelter – are our neighbors, wherever they may spend the night. For those of us who connected with TC3’s residents, whether for a day or a quarter, it is a lesson we will not soon forget – and one that I hope will lead to action to finally end the crisis of homelessness in our community.