The mayor's office has announced the Seattle public lands that will be eligible for new city-sanctioned homeless encampments under a plan approved earlier this year by the city council.
You can see the approved spots on this map (click to enlarge):
The city's new law will allow a total of three encampments on city land with requirements that they offer access to case managers to help transition people into more permanent housing.
As we've reiterated throughout this debate, basically no one on either the advocate or city hall side of this thinks encampments are a permanent solution. But they're a safer alternative to sleeping on the street.
“These encampments will provide a safer community environment than sleeping under a highway overpass or on a park bench," Mayor Ed Murray said in a statement yesterday. "Residents will have improved access to services and we hope to open the door to permanent housing as quickly as we can.”
After the council voted 5-4 to reject a pitch for city-sanctioned encampments in 2013, Murray brought a scaled-back version to the council this year. There was more support this time around in response to rising homelessness and a new council makeup (Council Member Kshama Sawant, who supports encampments, replaced Richard Conlin, who didn't).
"Seattle is the largest municipality in the country that has not only authorized encampments, but is now putting up city-owned property agreeing to pay for utilities and operations," said Sharon Lee, the executive director of the Low Income Housing Institute, in an interview with The Stranger. "This is a really a big step forward... If you look at the big picture from the balcony, we see so many cities resisting this, shutting them down, criminalizing homelessness. I think this is a major victory."
The Low Income Housing Institute will provide case management at the encampments, which will be run by two organizations that have been approved by the city: SHARE and Nickelsville. As the Seattle Times has reported, those were the only two organizations to apply and be approved to run the encampments. Both already operate tent cities in Seattle. Mayoral spokesperson Viet Shelton says the mayor was "disappointed" that more organizations didn't apply. There have also been questions about whether there will be enough funding to get these encampments up and running, but Shelton says the mayor's office is confident there will be.
The city will spend about $32,000 to prep the three preferred sites. Then, the encampments will cost a combined total of $200,000 a year run, according to the mayor's office. The council set aside $200,000 for encampments during last year's budgeting process, but some of that money has already been spent on existing encampments. Shelton says the city will combine what's left of that funding with money from the general fund to cover the start-up costs and operating costs for the rest of the year. The camps are expected to open in August, meaning the city will only have to cover about five months of operating costs. Funding to support the encampments next year will have to be included in the budget the mayor and council hash out this fall.
Here's the breakdown from the city of how many people can live on each site:
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
S Industrial Way between Fifth and Sixth 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 Second Avenue SW for approximately 95 residents
7110 Rainier Avenue S for approximately 32 residents
Encampments will be issued city permits, which last one year and can be extended for another year. Each site must then be vacant for one year before hosting a new encampment.
The mayor will send a resolution listing these locations to the council for its approval. The city will also notify neighborhoods ahead of encampments locating at these sites. Then, according to the mayor's announcement, "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."