Seattle’s longest running ‘sanctioned’ homeless camp must move but has no place to go

Seattle’s only ‘sanctioned’ homeless encampment has to move, and it has no place to go. The move comes at a time when Mayor Bruce Harrell is changing how the city handles the homelessness crisis and the call to expand the number of sanctioned encampments by at least one city council member.

The camp in question is Tent City 3, located on the front lawn of the Phinney Ridge Lutheran Church at 7500 Greenwood Avenue.  The camp has moved dozens of times in its 20-year existence by design.

"The way it works with Tent City 3 is we move," said Jesara Schroeder, a 10-month resident and the camp’s bookkeeper. "If we stay in one place too long, it becomes a burden at whatever location we are at." 

The church has hosted the camp four other times, but the stays are limited.  The current stay expires April 2 and can’t be extended, a church spokesperson said. 

"In the past, the camp was limited to 90 days at one location, so that is what defined the length of their stays," said the church’s Deacon of Outreach, Patrick Meagher.

"The camp and residents have been nothing but wonderful during their time with us," said Meagher.  "While our neighborhood has been overwhelmingly supportive of us hosting TC3, there are a few neighbors and businesses who push back."

Share/Wheel, which operates the camp, has relied on invites from churches and private landowners as hosts. Schroeder says there have not been any invites so far.

"We’ve been sending out letters looking for places to go after this," said Schroeder.

Seattle Councilmember suggests establishing 10 'sanctioned' homeless encampments to house 600 people

A Seattle City Councilmember has floated the idea of establishing sanctioned homeless encampments in downtown, according to a letter he sent to the mayor's office obtained by FOX 13.

One of those letters has gone to Seattle Councilmember Andrew Lewis, who chairs the council’s committee on homelessness.

Lewis has floated the idea of expanding the number of city-sanctioned encampments to 10.  We reached out to Lewis and his office about Tent City 3’s situation and have not received a response.

A spokesperson for Harrell says his deputy mayor for homelessness, Tiffany Washington, is "open to hearing recommendations from Tent City 3 leadership on potential permanent locations."

Harrell has asked for patience for his staff to implement his homelessness plan. Those details have not been unveiled.

By some accounts, the camp has been a good neighbor.  When someone broke into the Sip and Ship directly across the street, two people from the camp prevented any theft.

"They heard the glass break and they ran over and chased the individual out of the shop," said Diana Naramore, owner of Sip and Ship. "And now they are beloved by us and our team because they came over and help save my business."

When the camp does get an invite, it moves to publicly-owned land as it did in the summer of 2019 when it moved to a grass field near the Ravenna Park and Ride lot. Many in the neighborhood voiced their displeasure at the move.

The camp has always relied on donations to survive. In 2021, the Seattle City Council appropriated $80,000 to support the camp, said Schroeder.  She says the camp is expected to receive another $80,000 from the city this year.

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