Tent City 3 moves again, seeks support in Seattle

Aug 21, 2019, 1:30 PM
Pallets for tents in Tent City 3. (Carolyn Ossorio, KIRO Radio) The encampment's kitchen cubbies. (Carolyn Ossorio, KIRO Radio) A landscape view of the camp from the sidewalk. (Carolyn Ossorio, KIRO Radio) Honey Buckets inside the camp. The tent closest to the right is the "book keepers" tent where they assign tasks for the democratically run tent city. (Carolyn Ossorio, KIRO Radio) Inside the camp being set up. (Carolyn Ossorio, KIRO Radio) Temporary wrap around tarp fencing on the slice of land near I-5. (Carolyn Ossorio, KIRO Radio)

A Seattle homeless tent encampment known as “Tent City Three” is in the process of being set up near Green Lake, right by a sign that reads, “no camping.” Passersby can hear the hum of a generator; peaking over the wall of temporary tarp fencing are two port-o-potties and the tops of tents.

Campers moved in on Saturday, all while a producer from CBS’s “60 Minutes” took notes and snapped photos.

Campers handed out flyers to neighbors on Saturday explaining their situation: Tent City Three is a roving homeless encampment. Over the weekend, it was forced to move from a host church due to a 90-day-stay policy at a donated site, and then moved on to a new location.

Michelle Atwood is a member of the leadership team at Tent City Three. She says it ran out of options when it couldn’t get insurance to stay at a Christ Spirit Church property in the Seattle Central District.

Tent City Three is a program under SHARE/WHEEL, but Atwood says it doesn’t want to be judged because of its affiliation with the organization, which has clashed with the city of Seattle over the last year-plus.

“It doesn’t matter what you think of the organization that we’re affiliated with,” said Atwood. “It’s the people on the ground here. It’s about how we behave in the neighborhood, not SHARE/WHEEL.”

When you talk about SHARE/WHEEL, the name Scott Morrow inevitably comes up. Morrow is the leader of SHARE/WHEEL. He’s made headlines for camping out at the Othello Tiny House Village since March, in protest of the city of Seattle and the Low Income Housing Institute severing ties and funding from their organization to run three tiny house villages.

Nickelsville leader camps in village kitchen, throws away donated food

“Scott’s not a topic. Scott’s not here. We’re here, doing the work. This isn’t about Scott,” Atwood noted.

But sources say Morrow’s fingerprints are all over this move. They question why it took the city until Monday to respond to the camp illegally moving onto the city-owned property.

The mayor’s office released a statement saying it was aware of the situation and was determining the best next steps. It also confirmed that it is aware that CBS’s “60 Minutes” is doing a story on the encampment and the homeless crisis in Seattle.

Meantime, Atwood says there are 42 men, women, and children living at the site. That includes folks who were already living in rough conditions before they arrived.

“People are living underneath the overpass — they shouldn’t be there,” said one local business owner in the area. “And children who are living in the camp shouldn’t be here either, they need to be in homes.”

He works at a barber shop near the campsite, and says he’s not happy about Tent City Three moving in. But when it comes to the homeless in the neighborhood, it’s business as usual.

“We have to figure out how to fix this homeless problem in the area — it was already out of hand before this new group arrived,” he said. “People camping out, there’s RVs and people living out of their cars parked in front of the shop. I never see the city doing anything about it.”

Atwood says they’ve received no help from the city, noting that “everything we have from the tents, to the clothes, to the coffee in our cups is community supported, [is] not city supported.”

LIHI, Nickelsville split up over homeless camp management

Tent City Three is actively looking for a host. But it wants the city to offer more than a shelter bed.

“I want housing. Have you ever lived in a shelter? Have you ever spent the night on a mat on the floor shelter? I encourage you to do so and then come talk to me,” she said.

Atwood wasn’t surprised that as of Tuesday morning, the Navigation Team still hadn’t visited the site to offer services. She says all their pleas for help have gone unanswered, and that they had no other choice but to move to their current site.

Will Lemke with the Navigation Team confirmed that one of their System Navigators visited and connected with organizers of the camp on Tuesday afternoon.

“Offering services and to hear more about what residents of the camp need. We don’t have more information to share at this time,” Lemke said.

There is no word yet on whether any of the campers had taken the Navigation Team up on the offer.

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Tent City 3 moves again, seeks support in Seattle