Residents of two homeless encampments raised concerns Tuesday about a proposed ordinance that would authorize and regulate up to three additional tent cities in Seattle, potentially on city property.
Speaking during the public comment period of a Seattle City Council land-use committee meeting, several residents of Tent City 3 thanked Seattle Mayor Ed Murray for proposing legislation intended to create safer options for homeless people sleeping outside.
But they vowed to oppose the bill, noting that it would restrict the new tent cities to non-residential zones. Roger Franz, from Tent City 3, currently on the campus of Seattle Pacific University, referred to that particular provision as “redlining.”
Some residents of Nickelsville, an encampment currently on private land in the Chinatown-International District, sat apart from the Tent City 3 residents and shared other concerns. More than one speaker suggested that any new encampments should be managed by residents rather than by an outside organization.
Tent City 3 is operated by the SHARE/WHEEL, which also runs an encampment in Redmond and which has been the subject of controversy in recent years. Nickelsville has ties to SHARE/WHEEL as well.
Under Murray’s proposal, only organizations with experience managing encampments, homeless shelters or low-income housing would be permitted to operate the new tent cities.
Murray last month described his bill as a response to an increase in street homelessness and illegal camping in Seattle, and the council signaled support for tent cities last November when it voted to allocate $200,000 in the city’s 2015 and 2016 budget to help authorized encampments pay for amenities such as portable toilets.
In recent years, tent cities have mostly achieved legal status through religious institutions, which are allowed to host encampments in Seattle with few restrictions.
But the council as recently as 2013 rejected a bill similar to mayor’s legislation, and resistance from current tent city residents may complicate matters.