City identifies public lands for permitted encampment sites

Today Mayor Ed Murray released a map of City-owned properties most suitable for new permitted encampments to serve at least 200 individuals experiencing homelessness. The mayor will transmit a resolution on the encampment sites to the Seattle City Council tomorrow.

The three preferred City-owned sites for 2015 are:

  • 2826 NW Market Street for approximately 52 residents.
  • 3234 17th Avenue W for approximately 70 residents.
  • Industrial Way between 5th and 6th Avenue S for approximately 78 residents.

Four City-owned sites were identified as potential future locations:

  • 8030 15th Avenue NW for approximately 36 residents.
  • 3830 4th Avenue NE for approximately 64 residents.
  • 7115 2nd Avenue SW for approximately 95 residents.
  • 7110 Rainier Avenue S for approximately 32 residents.

“Permitted encampments are not a permanent solution to the crisis of homelessness we are experiencing in Seattle,” said Murray. “These encampments will provide a safer community environment than sleeping under a highway overpass or on a park bench. Residents will have improved access to services and we hope to open the door to permanent housing as quickly as we can.”

This year the mayor proposed and the City Council unanimously adopted an ordinance that allows up to three permitted encampments of no more than 100 persons each on City-owned or private property. Each location will be permitted for one year, with the possibility of permit renewal for an additional year. Each site must be vacant for one year between encampments.

“The One Night Count, tells us that there were over 2800 people in our community living without shelter this year,” said Councilmember Mike O’Brien. “Identifying city-owned sites for transitional encampments is an important next step. I look forward to working with community to establish up to three sites where people can stay safely and in community as we seek permanent housing solutions.”

“I am right by Mayor Murray’s side as we create safe spaces for community members who are without shelter,” said Councilmember Sally Bagshaw. “Managed encampments will offer the most basic resources for people, such as a 24-hour shelter with public health services, hygiene facilities, and potentially access to electricity. I wholeheartedly support this approach which will make our city better for all of us.”

Before recommending the sites, Seattle’s Department of Planning and Development reviewed more than 135 vacant City-owned parcels. The ordinance adopted by the Council limits encampment locations to unused property in non-residential zones, excluding park properties. Each encampment must be at least one mile from other legal encampments.

The City estimates that one-time start-up costs for the encampments will be $32,000, with annual lease costs and services for encampment residents of approximately $200,000 already provided in the 2015 budget.

Seattle’s Human Services Department (HSD) has selected two encampment operators through a qualification review process: SHARE and Nickelsville. The encampment ordinance requires that operators have prior experience managing shelters, low-income housing or homeless encampments. The Murray Administration continues to reach out to other faith-based and non-profit organizations that may be interested in operating an encampment.

The encampment operators are responsible for safety and security within the camp and residents will be screened by the operators for acceptance. A third organization, Low Income Housing Institute, will provide case management services to individuals living in the encampments.

HSD contractors and staff will make regular site visits to support SHARE and Nickelsville, and coordinate public health, medical outreach and food assistance.

“A place to store your things, sit and talk with friends, and rest your head at night are taken for granted by most of us,” said Mark Putnam of the Committee to End Homelessness in King County. “For many, however, these are not givens. Encampments can offer a temporary safe place for people to be human, while working to get back into stable housing.”

“The Mayor rightly sees the crisis facing people experiencing homelessness as requiring a response that includes the safety and community of sanctioned encampments,” said Michael Ramos of the Church Council of Greater Seattle. “We welcome this step to expand the continuum of care to meet this most basic of human needs.”

Encampment operators will form a Community Advisory Committee to respond to community concerns, review operations standards, and work with neighbors when encampments move to new permitted sites.

A fact sheet can be found here.