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Seattle eying South Lake Union for next homeless encampment

Eighth Avenue and Aloha Street in Seattle's South Lake Union neighborhood. (Matt Pitman, KIRO Radio)

The location of Seattle’s next homeless encampment could be in the shadow of Amazon and other South Lake Union businesses.

RELATED: Durkan introduces Bridge to Housing for All legislation

Sources from the South Lake Union business community tell KIRO Radio that the city has been reaching out to businesses in the neighborhood. They are being made aware of a potential plan to place a city-sanctioned homeless encampment at Eighth Avenue North and Aloha Street, two blocks from Lake Union Park and the Museum of History and Industry.

“We’ve had some outreach from people working for the City of Seattle on the homeless tiny village, or I’m not sure what they are calling it these days,” said Kyle Ducey, president of the South Lake Union Community Council. “They’ve outreached to let us know that the plan is to roll it out later this summer.

Ducey says that city officials are planning events in the neighborhood to answer questions and get community about the encampment. He plans to attend them as a representative of the community council. The group is concerned about how effective the plan will be.

“We all agree that a tiny village is not permanent housing and getting people into a permanent housing situation is the best for those people who are experiencing homelessness and for the community that will be affected by the tiny village,” Ducey said.

South Lake Union location

The only area with potential for an encampment at Eight Avenue and Aloha Street is a parking lot. According to King County records, the parking lot property is owned by the City of Seattle. Neighboring the parking lot is a maintenance building for Seattle Parks & Recreation.

A spokesperson for Seattle’s Human Services Department would not confirm the city’s plan for South Lake Union, but did say that Mayor Jenny Durkan “is committed to providing safer locations for people experiencing homelessness as laid out in her Bridge To Housing For All legislation” and that the mayor will have more to announce at the end of May.

Meg Olberding with the Human Services Department also says that the city has been reaching out to a range of Seattle neighborhoods to talk about the homelessness and affordability crises. This includes the potential of placing new, permitted homeless villages. Olberding says “we consistently seek community input as we evaluate proposals before making final determinations.”

Since January, the City of Seattle has reached out to:

  • Central District
  • Georgetown
  • Haller Lake
  • Highland Park
  • Interbay
  • Licton Springs
  • Othello
  • Haller Lake
  • South Lake Union
  • Wallingford
  • White Center
  • Whittier Heights

Mayor Durkan’s Bridge to Housing for All is a one-time investment of $3.5 million for community services, and $10.7 million for affordable housing and safer places for people without shelter. The money will come from the sale of city property. Durkan announced her Bridge to Housing plan in January in front of the construction of new tiny homes.

The mayor’s office notes that Seattle’s sanctioned encampments are at capacity, serving 300 people. These camps include 149 tiny houses. The city is also funding 1,464 shelter beds, of which 85 percent are 24/7 or enhanced shelter beds with services. Those shelters are also nearing capacity.

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