Homelessnes, Tent Cities and us

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    A report was released Thursday recommending an increase in the number of tent cities in Seattle – up to seven serving 100 folks each. I know that additional resources are needed for the homeless in our city but can’t help but wonder just who a tent city serves? The homeless are still cold and homeless in a tent city (and vulnerable to crimes committed against them in these difficult to police tent cities). The neighborhoods don’t have the infrastructure to provide help to 100 people. It seems a way that Murray can say he is doing something without actually benefitting anyone, least of all the homeless. Thoughts?



    I wouldn’t say the tent cities aren’t doing anything. The biggest problem most of the homeless around here have is not being able to have any sort of a setup at night. The tents may not be much warmer, but are certainly better then leaning against a doorjamb waiting for the cops to wake them up and tell them to move on. Yes there is crime in these tent cities, but I’ve yet to hear about a homeless person being beaten to death by drunk students in one. We all know that more needs to be done, there are far too many mentally ill, elderly and veteran homeless out there. At least the tent cities are providing a temporary measure of relief to some.



    Not much sympathy from me for the substance abusers and criminals. The homeless need to clean-up after themselves because they are trashing Ballard/Seattle. Why do people pack a vehicle with garbage and park it on Leary Way for months?



    I read most of the task force Emergency Task Force On Unsheltered Homelessness Recommendations to Mayor Murray report. They are proposing 7 tents cities to hold 50-100 people for one year, with a possible 6 month extension. I would imagine that, at the end of the 12-18 months, they will either move the tent cities or just extend them. They would provide services to the tent city residents to help them qualify for welfare money, find work, find housing, and such. There were plenty of other ideas floated in the report as well.

    One of the interesting things is that none of the discussions addressed the various roots of homelessness, probably because one of the objectives was to come up with low-cost solutions. It seems to me that there are some common reasons for homelessness and, depending on those, the solution for ending it would be different. I have never seen any statistics on how effective “ending homelessness” is. I suspect (and I would LOVE to be proved wrong) that while all cities have homeless people, the places that are tolerant and supportive have more of them. It seems like every time there is a news report, the people they feature have come here from someplace else, like the mid-west.

    The report also addresses the possibility of working with other cities in the region.



    Maybe some old military barracks coupled with job training would be a better solution. The tent cities look too much like third world refugee camps and can’t be very healthy.



    I think Kate hit the nail on the head – tent cities are just a feel-good, band-aid solution, but they do absolutely nothing to move the city and county toward its (purported) goal of ending homelessness, and only perpetuate and condone dysfunctional behavior. The city and county, according to the Seattle Times, spend a combined $45 million ANNUALLY on homeless services. That seems like enough money to house at least a sizable percentage of the region’s homeless population, if there was actually the political will to do that.

    Tent cities are unhygienic, inhumane, a public nuisance and neither sustainable nor a solution. As long as we support tent cities and don’t demand better, we can expect Seattle’s homeless population to increase. Why we put up with this as a city is beyond me.



    Has anyone taken an official tour of the tent cities? The SHARE/WHEEL group website says they offer them. I’d agree they don’t look like a “great solution” but they also seem to have a number of advantages over both rough sleeping and real housing.

    For one thing, the camp seems much more structured than would be possible if the really violent, addicted and mentally ill folks we see around here were allowed to stay. Some of the more antisocial types wouldn’t last a day in a place where they weren’t allowed to threaten and assault their neighbors and smoke meth – I know, I ended up with one of “those types” living near me and it was constant drama. Police were out visiting him dozens of times before he finally landed in jail for assault and harassment. Just one guy like that would rip a tent city to pieces. From this it’s obvious that whatever is going on in the current tent cities is somehow screening out the most psychotic and antisocial elements. A couple of people with severe personality disorders and raging addictions simply aren’t going to get along with one another even for a short time.



    I haven’t visited a SHARE/WHEEL tent city, but I have read that the residents have rules and meetings. People do get kicked out for violating the rules. What they don’t have is background checks or mental health (or any other) counselling. Residents are also required to lobby the city for more money and fewer restrictions (on where they can set up and for how long). They have been in operation for over 20 years. Any attempt to regulate or restrict the tent cities is considered an assault on their dignity and a refusal of funds is oppressing the downtrodden.

    I frankly can’t understand a city council that reduces affordable microhousing units but is fine with tent cities.


    Life is amazing

    Cate, I agree that it looks like they do nothing but it’s my understanding that it is a much safer place to live and that the residence become a cohesive community.
    It certainly isn’t ideal but …..

    I also have read that they have leaders and rules and folks get kicked out for not following them.

    JM98107, when you say you don’t have sympathy for addicts and criminals, I understand that but I don’t put them both together.

    There are not nice people and there are good people. I’ve known addicts that are very good people. They just are incapable of getting it together.

    In general, I think someone experiencing homelessness is doing so because they are incapable at this moment of doing something else. I’m not saying they won’t be able to get it together or that with help they couldn’t get it together. Just saying that at the moment I’m looking at them they are unable. They may have a non obvious mental illness, they may live this way because this is the only life that makes sense to them for whatever reason, it may be a completely economic series of events, or it may be addiction. Whatever it is, I thank god I’ve been blessed with a life that has not seen me out there.

    As far as someone filling their car with garbage and leaving it parked on Leary. I’ve seen them too. Not pretty, but again, and speaking as someone that works with people who have hoarding issues, I say to myself, thank god I do not have that mental illness.
    I don’t care that they park their cars there I’m just glad they have someplace dry to sleep.

    I wonder about coming up with a “tent city” for people living out of their cars? Like that big parking lot where the Yankee diner used to be.

    I don’t know. I wish I knew the answer.



    I don’t understand how the city can be spending $35 million a year on services for homeless people and not be able to provide housing for at least a sizable number of them. Tent cities are neither a humane nor long-term solution, and taxpayers should demand better. I believe tent cities are condoned largely due to city leaders’ unwillingness to stand up to the bullies and protoanarchists at SHARE/Wheel, who want self-governing, autonomous communities that are publicly funded.

    I agree with LIA that if the city is going to allow car camping, it should provide a temporary site for that to accommodate car campers until they can access stable housing (temporary being the operative word). But I’m annoyed and frustrated that the city allows car campers to tie up free public parking spots for months, sometimes years on end, that are intended to be available to other people, especially in areas where parking is tight, like around the Ballard Library. Allowing people to live in their vehicles permanently is just condoning dysfunctional and unhealthy behavior. We should instead be providing services and housing to help those people stabilize and get their lives back on track.



    There are definitely vans that stay too long, but I’d really like to know what van near the library has been there for years. Leary appears to be the main issue for cars just being dumped full of crap but parking enforcement seems to be pretty darned on top of things near the library.

    I take issue with that word “allow”, American citizens are supposedly held to the same legal standards as other American citizens, yes? Which means everyone has the same right to public parking. There are a few camping vans that are an issue but most of them move within the legal 72 hour allowed period. How kind of some posters, to so graciously allow for others the rights they themselves would demand. I would also point out how many non-vandwellers violate the parking laws and get away with it. I constantly see cars parked the wrong way on the streets and hanging into driveways. I’ve thought about calling the parking cops on all of them but I like to think I have better things to do with my life, and it would be a timely endeavor lol.

    It’s interesting that the assumption is always that they are in those vans because they are dysfunctional or unhealthy. I myself come from a long line of gypsies for whom “car-dwelling” is the norm. Some certainly are not in a good place but not all of them are degenerates. Every community has issues whether they live inside, in a van or on the streets. There are the good, the bad and the ugly everywhere. I know lots of poor people with better morals then the rich, let’s not paint everyone with the same brush. It’s amazing to me that the condo dwellers who complain the loudest about the homeless ruining the city are the ones I see dumping trash, taking a leak on a tree….or my personal favourite: I saw a resident of Greenfire take a crap outside the library, then walk into his apartment. What, because he’s drunk that’s excusable, but heaven forbid someone who doesn’t harm anyone, who actively picks up after themselves and others and moves their van within LEGAL rights be in your neighborhood?

    Maybe it’s coming from a long time spent in the Army, and a longer time spent volunteering with the vets and the ill, but I am so insanely frustrated with peoples bitching about parking when human lives are at stake. First we need to help the veterans out there on the streets, and the mentally ill. Then maybe if we all learned to live and let live the world would be a better place. We should all stop being so damned judgmental, as if we are living the perfect lives ourselves. Go ahead and kick the pedophiles, rapists and violent out of the public parks and off the streets, but leave the harmless and hurting alone. Unless you’re actually going to volunteer ideas that help instead of just expressing a “whoa-is-me” opinion.



    There shouldn’t be any veterans on the street because the US Dept of Veterans Affairs must have a half dozen programs to help a person return to civilian life.



    There is a brown van that has been parked in the block east of the library for YEARS. The owner of that van also has a blue car that he parks in the same block, or the block in front of St. Luke’s. Both vehicles have been there for several years, parked in a 72-hour zone that is free public parking which should be available for other people. There are other vehicles parked in the same two blocks that have also been there for long periods of time – months, if not years. Parking enforcement is very active around the library, but the car campers can game the system by moving their vehicles slightly within the 72-hour timeframe while staying in the same area. Meanwhile, anyone who parks in the two-hour spots around there to run errands or for other temporary uses, as those spots are intended, can expect to get a ticket if their vehicles remain even a few minutes over the limit.

    Yes, everyone has the right to public parking. That’s my point. People do not have the right to occupy public parking spaces indefinitely, which is what’s long been happening around the library.

    My suggestion is above: establish designated areas for car camping and spend more of the money being thrown at Band-Aid solutions such as tent cities on permanent housing for homeless people.



    I find it very difficult to believe that someone who lives at Greenfire would take a crap outside of his building and then walk inside. That makes absolutely no sense.


    great idea

    ” …car campers can game the system by moving their vehicles slightly within the 72-hour timeframe while staying in the same area”

    this sounds like many of my neighbors, some of whom have 3 or 4 cars at a single residence.

    here’s what we really need to do: remove all car parking from streets.
    it’s really a big, fat waste of space when you consider people could actually be moving at a brisk pace otherwise.



    And do what with those vehicles, GI?



    Compass Rose, drunk people are drunk people no matter what. I rarely find what idiots do unbelievable anymore.



    The brown van sounds like an opportunity for a photography project! Take a photo of the van on the block every 3 months – or every month if he moves the van around, but within the same block. The downside is the project would last at least 2 years, but it would highlight the issue well and could be interesting from an art perspective.


    great idea

    CR– I would grind up all those cars into a pulp and then..

    seriously though, as much as I hate cars I know they are a necessary evil.
    however, on any sort of arterial, or street that can use additional space to move bodies or goods should not have any street parking.

    I ride my bike along Shilshole Ave quite frequently, and drive along it in my car when there are pedestrians, moms with strollers even, on the shoulder of the road because PARKING is an inalienable right for the businesses that exist there.

    that is one example of a place where cars might get scratched up by an angry bicyclist who does not appreciate giant tires on the side of the road.



    GI says “however, on any sort of arterial, or street that can use additional space to move bodies or goods should not have any street parking.”

    This may not be as crazy an idea as first I though! For example, 15th Ave/Elliott from the Ballard Bridge down to where Western Ave branches off. Nickerson/Westalke from the Ballard Bridge down to Mercer St. No parking spaces, no bus lanes, no bicycle lanes, no bulges/constrictions, just traffic lanes and sidewalks. Maybe we could use some of the regressive new license plate fee to fund a pilot/demonstration stretch or two.



    CR: “I agree with LIA that if the city is going to allow car camping, it should provide a temporary site for that to accommodate car campers until they can access stable housing…”

    Seattle does fund a program called the “Road to Housing” formerly “Safe Parking Program” that does accommodate people living in vehicles. It provides people living in those vehicles a place place to park on a church lot with case management assistance in finding housing. The program does work as it has enabled many people to get into housing. However, it like so many other social service programs is underfunded and inadequate to meet the need. As a consequence there is a significant waiting list to get into the program.

    Find out more about the program with an Internet search for ‘Seattle Road to Housing’ or call (206) 474-1815, the Compass Housing Alliance intake line for the program.


    Life is amazing

    Thank you for the info Citizen. Seems to beg the question. How do we have the money to drop a satellite on a comet or whatever that silliness was reciently when we don’t have the money to fund these programs?



    The people of Ballard and seattle should oppose the Urban Rest Stop any any further projects for homeless people. It just brings more homeless here; in other words, more food for the pigeons.

    For all those people who are so eager to provide such services, why don’t you just offer up your yard for camping or your couch for a homeless person?



    I’m aware of the parking program, NW Citizen, and wonder why the city has not employed that to reduce the numbers of car campers in central Ballard and ease the parking problems around the library. Surely there must be city-owned lots that could be used for this, rather than allowing car campers to monopolize public parking that intended to be available for use by other people as well.

    More broadly, I don’t understand how the city can be spending $35 million annually on homeless services and not reducing the numbers of homeless people. Tent cities, Urban Rest Stops and parking programs are just band-aid solutions. They’re neither humane nor sustainable. Seattle is simply managing homelessness, not reducing it. We are now nine years into the Ten-Year Plan to End Homelessness, and it seems that city leaders don’t have the guts or will to do what it takes to truly end homelessness. As residents, taxpayers and fellow human beings, we should demand better.



    There’s always a caravan of visitors camping on NW 46th and leaving a horrible mess every time they have to move their rigs. The city should cut services to transients and quit encouraging them.

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