The following comments, written by Alison Eisinger, Director of the Coalition on Homelessness, were shared at the Seattle City Council Meeting on Monday, March 30, 2015 in support of CB 118310, an Ordinance to permit transitional tent camps for homeless individuals as an interim use on City-owned or private property. Hillary Coleman, Social Justice Intern at the Coalition, read Alison’s remarks as Alison was out of town at a conference. We are glad to say that the ordinance passed unanimously! We also supported an amendment by Councilmember Sawant to review permitting camps in residential zones which passed as well! Thank you City Council, let’s keep working together to provide more shelter and housing options for our community.
Thank you for taking up Mayor Murray’s version of CM Licata’s original proposal to create more opportunities for organized tent camps in Seattle. The Coalition strongly supports passage of this proposed legislation. We also support the amendments that would address the fact that homelessness is not confined to specific neighborhoods, cities, or communities, and the solutions to homelessness — both interim and permanent — must not be restricted geographically either.
People who are without basic shelter in our community are currently living in all kinds of neighborhoods. When 1100 volunteers counted 3.772 people outside during this year’s One Night Count, they counted people in Queen Anne, Ballard, SoDo, Lake City Way, Georgetown, and Ravenna. They also counted people in Renton, in Kent, Kirkland, ,Kenmore, Vashon Island, Bellevue, Redmond, and Des Moines.
In considering making additional city-owned property available for organized tent camps, the council should not seek to limit which neighborhoods they can occur in. Our city policy should reflect our values: people who are homeless should be living in residential neighborhoods- that is the point, isn’t it, to include and recognize people rather than literally marginalize them and make their lives more difficult.
Excluding residential neighborhoods in Seattle from consideration is an awkward and arbitrary attempt that is not supported by the evidence of more than ten years, and the personal experiences of thousands of people, both housed and homeless. And, consider this: doing so sets a bad precedent. Seattle electeds say they want to see more, not more restrictive, demonstration of willingness to respond constructively to homelessness in municipalities across our region. What will you say to elected officials in Issaquah or Snoqualmie or Burien or Shoreline who agree to host tent cities or site shelters or services in theory, but who say that they just cannot identify suitable property that is not in a residential neighborhood?
Finally, we applaud this significant step in the right direction, even as we urge the Council and the Mayor to make good on the Mayor’s commitment following the Unsheltered Task Force to add 150 year-round shelter beds, providing indoor safety and stability. And, as we all turn attention towards renewal of the Seattle Housing Levy, let’s remember that our city has a robust responsibility to fund housing for people who are homeless.