Seattle Evaluation Finds Permitted Camps Help Unsheltered People

Seattle is the first city in the country to offer public land and funding to support permitted encampments for people experiencing homelessness. All six of the existing permitted homeless encampment programs operate on public property with City funding to support services, security, and operations at the camps. Today, representatives of the Human Services Department (HSD) presented to City Council’s Human Services & Public Health Committee its assessment of the first three encampments to open — Interbay, Ballard and Othello.

In 2016, the City adopted a strategic plan known as the Pathways Home plan as a framework or actions to address homelessness. The person-centered plan includes key data-driven policies and actions that will transform the current system into one that more fully addresses the complex needs of people experiencing homelessness. While the priority actions within Pathways Home are underway, permitted encampment programs that include access to services and case management provide immediate options for people without shelter.

With its assessment, HSD intends to determine the extent that City of Seattle temporary sanctioned encampments are an effective homelessness response strategy and, identify successes, challenges and areas of future study. The report reflects the experiences and results of the Ballard, Interbay and Othello encampments Jan. 1-Dec. 31, 2016.

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Key Findings

  • The City permitted encampments have met and exceeded the contracted performance measures.
  • The model is serving people who have been living outside in greenbelts, on the streets, in cars and in hazardous situations.
  • Overall, the neighboring communities have responded positively and, there is no significant increase in crime due to a permitted encampment.
  • The encampment self-managed governance structure offers residents a way to positively contribute to day-to-day operations and community engagement efforts while building individual confidence and leadership skills.
  • The movement of encampment clients through the program and in to housing validates adding case management and services to the self-managed permitted encampments.
  • More research is needed in these areas:
    • What detrimental racial equity practices or program barriers may exist for Black/African American, American Indian or Alaska Native and Hispanic Latino people experiencing homelessness.
    • Possible changes in the level of services offered as the make-up of the permitted encampment shifts to serve more people with higher mental health, physical and addiction treatment needs.
    • Community perception and best practices in engagement around the permitted encampments.
    • The demographics and programmatic needs of people who leave before engaging with a case manager and people who exit without providing a destination.