City Council passes final plan for up to 3 more encampments

Exactly two months after our first report on a city proposal meant to facilitate three more encampments in Seattle, the final version of the plan won unanimous City Council approval today. Here’s the news release that followed:

City Council unanimously adopted legislation today allowing for new interim use permits for as many as three transitional homeless encampments on property owned by the City of Seattle, private parties, or educational major institutions in most of Seattle’s non-residential zones. The encampments will serve some of the 2,813 people homeless in Seattle, providing a safe and managed site for people to sleep and reside.

The encampment proposal originated from the Mayor’s Emergency Task Force on Unsheltered Homelessness, which was based on a bill proposed by Councilmember Nick Licata in 2013.

Encampments will be required to develop operation plans, which must include provisions for management and maintenance, provision of human and social services, and public health and safety standards. The encampments must be located on lots at least 5,000 square feet and within one-half mile of a transit stop, and cannot be located on City park land. Permits will be granted for one year, after which an encampment must apply for an extension of up to one year or move to a new site.

“More and more people in Seattle are homeless with no place to go. This is not a permanent solution to homelessness, but it is a humane approach that offers people currently sleeping on the streets a safe place to be along with access to services to help them get back on their feet,” said Councilmember Mike O’Brien, the legislation’s sponsor on Council.

“I’m grateful that the Council gave it another shot,” said Councilmember Nick Licata. “The need for people sleeping outside to have a safe place is even greater than when the Council defeated my bill in 2013.”

Currently, encampments are only authorized by a temporary use permit of up to six months or if a site is owned or controlled by a religious organization. An amendment to study whether encampments should be permitted in all zones and under any kind of ownership was adopted.

Council today also authorized the spending of $175,000 toward a newly-created regional matching fund, in which Seattle is collaborating with United Way to provide a total of $325,000 this year to immediately develop new shelter or to expand existing shelter outside of Seattle. Fully 91% of shelter beds for single adults in King County were located in Seattle in 2013, according to findings from the Single Adult Advisory Group of the King County Committee to End Homelessness. The Advisory Group recommended increasing shelter capacity outside Seattle. In 2013, an HSD report revealed that 70% of single adults report a last permanent address from inside Seattle limits.

In addition, Council authorized $200,000 to go toward reducing unsheltered individual and family homelessness. The funds will be used to provide 65 additional shelter beds in Seattle for adults and for youth and for case management to help homeless persons in encampments to secure housing, and to meet other needs. The budget additions were sponsored by Councilmember Sally J. Clark. About half of the family shelter capacity for King County was in Seattle with 51% percent of those families reporting a last permanent address from Seattle.

“Ending homelessness in Seattle-King County requires a regional approach that funds flexible options to support those facing homelessness. These budget adds move us in that direction,” said Councilmember Sally J. Clark.

The encampment legislation and spending authorizations will take effect 30 days after the Mayor signs them. The encampment legislation will sunset on March 31, 2020. In the meantime, the City, County and regional jurisdictions will continue to work on more permanent solutions to housing.

All the documents related to today’s vote are here. Per previous discussions, city staff is expected to come up within three months with a list of city sites that would qualify as possible encampment locations.

18 Replies to "City Council passes final plan for up to 3 more encampments"

  • MFW March 31, 2015 (11:35 am)

    At some point the City of Seattle will need to come to figure out its safety priority; are we more concerned about the homeless population then the tax-paying residents? THe news last night had two stroies of violent attacks on innocent people by homeless individuals apparently suffering from mental illness. One Buger King patron in Bellevue is dead, and another restaurant patron down down suffered life-threatening stab wounds. As I walked from work last night I saw a few bystanders on 1st Avenue come to the aid of a mother and preschooler who were attempting to fend off an incoherent homelss man. Good thing the streets are safe for homless, they are less so for families and business people who simply want to be able to walk the streets safely.

  • Brian March 31, 2015 (12:12 pm)

    The second this starts impacting the neighborhoods there’s going to be problems. I was at Lincoln park last week with my kid and had to leave because there was a crazy homeless person who was having some sort of meltdown. Who exactly is the council answering to? It’s not the taxpayers apparently.

  • miws March 31, 2015 (12:59 pm)

    Good thing the streets are safe for homless (sic)……..


    Yes indeed, streets in Seattle, and elsewhere in Puget Sound, are safe for the Homeless….



  • JanS March 31, 2015 (1:32 pm)

    Mike…I love the way naysayers bitch and moan about “the homless”, but have no answers as to how to deal with the homeless , the mentally ill. The attitude is that they’re all bums, all takers, and ae all choosing the “lifestyle” You chose it….right? :(

  • miws March 31, 2015 (1:49 pm)

    I sure did, Jan….



  • Peri March 31, 2015 (2:18 pm)

    The problem is not the homeless per se, but the mentally ill – and they are a problem because several generations of people more concerned about their taxes than about the welfare of their neighbors have resulted in more mentally ill people on the streets than there should be.

    Folks, it’s much cheaper to provide services for the mentally ill than to hire cops and prosecutors and jailers to deal with problems so caused.

  • miws March 31, 2015 (3:07 pm)

    Thank you, Peri, very well put.



  • Stacy March 31, 2015 (3:08 pm)

    The streets are not a safe place to live unless your home is less safe than cold and rain. People who live on the streets do not have better options. Unfortunately there is a mismatch between what many people believe to be crime committed by the homeless versus crime committed against the homeless. For instance, homeless people are often attacked by non homeless people. Homeless people have been killed by police. We need to protect the most vulnerable among us and those people are our homeless and disabled. Love them and give to them because in an instant, them can be you.

  • jwright March 31, 2015 (3:20 pm)

    Dear Complainers,
    Feel free to suggest better solutions and/or volunteer to help.

  • West Seattle Hipster March 31, 2015 (4:10 pm)

    If the homeless encampments are on private property and the citizens of the camps give back to the local community, then I think it can be beneficial. Of course, every community needs rules and policies, and here are a few of my suggestions:


    ALL member of the homeless encampment must refrain from drinking alcohol, illegal drug use, and smoking cigarettes. Any violation results in an instant ban from the encampment.


    All residents must contribute to keeping the encampment clean and sanitary, as well as volunteering in the community in which they reside. This would entail walking the neighborhood on a weekly basis and picking up trash as a coordinated effort led by encampment leadership.


    All members of the encampment must be actively searching for employment, and work with camp leadership on establishing a plan to improve their situation.


    Those are a few solutions that I can think of off the top of my head, I figure that if folks are given a helping hand, then they should be willing to contribute what they can to give back.

  • Fitz March 31, 2015 (4:18 pm)

    When the city council discerns the segments of “homeless” it will help tackle the problem, and it is a problem.
    Yes.. there are homeless people with mental health issues. They are incapable of holding a job.. paying rent.. living like society expects. Those people need our help.
    We also have a significant amount of “homeless” people who don’t fall into this mental health category and simply are parasites on our society. Our city council is not even at a point where they are comfortable admitting that let alone doing anything about it.
    It will only get worse unless good people demand more from those who are choosing to take vs. give.

  • Citizen Sane March 31, 2015 (4:43 pm)

    Fitz, you hit the nail on the head. The problem is that homeless people come in different flavors, but policymakers (and a lot of other people) insist on viewing them as a homogeneous entity, and seek ‘one size fits all’ solutions.
    A significant portion have mental-health issues that keep them from functioning in Society. We use to be able to exercise involuntary committal to mental hospitals, but well meaning (albeit wrongheaded) activists have all but put an end to that. Until we allow ourselves to do for them what they won’t do for themselves, we are forced into reactive mode (ER visits, etc) which are much more expensive.
    Another portion are individuals and families who have truly had some bad breaks and desperately want to improve their situation. They are eager and able, and will make the most of any help they get. We need to ID and support these folks 110%. Any investment in them will yield great dividends.
    The last group are the true parasites and ‘takers’. These are the ‘professional’ homeless: the Urban Campers, the shoplifting hobos who hang out in the Admiral District, and the able-bodied young pests you see in the U District and Cap Hill, and all the ones who actually prefer the lifestyle of a vagabond freeloader to the ‘drudgery’ of a being a responsible and productive citizen. These guys essentially ‘piss in the soup’ and ruin it for the other groups, as they alienate citizens like me who would otherwise be more willing to support homeless programs.
    We have to dump the PC view that the homeless are some kind of Urban Martyr that we have to throw money at regardless of how they got that way. Until we are willing to take a more nuanced view and direct resources to those who can honestly be helped, and kick the riffraff to the curb, our efforts will be little more than futile band-aids.

  • William Curtin March 31, 2015 (9:45 pm)

    Why not put them out on Terminal 5 on Harbor Island? Cameras could be placed out there for security they can share it with the Shell Oil people

  • Matt S. March 31, 2015 (10:03 pm)

    Thanks Fitz and Citizen Sane, for characterizing the complexity of the issue. I get frustrated with overly simplistic views on the subject and appreciate the perspective. I think West Seattle Hipster’s ideas resonate a bit with me because they require some measure of effort and decency. I support getting folks a leg up, and despise the idea of working hard to share resources with people who won’t bother.

  • JanS March 31, 2015 (11:57 pm)

    so…there are ideas for those in camps who are able and able-bodied. Now, solutions need to be figured out for the mentally ill, those who are not capable for themselves. “Kick them to the curb?” Which curb is that? Where is it located? And what happens when they are in the gutter? Do we just ignore? Let them starve there? Ship them to another city to deal with? These are the questions that the city needs to deal with, and I don’t see the mayor and CC doing it. Sometimes hard decisions will have to be made that make those “city leaders” a little less popular. I don’t think they have the wherewithall to do it.

  • Ex-Westwood Resident April 1, 2015 (8:27 am)

    Yes there is a HUGE problem with the mentally ill in the homeless population. The solution would be to commit them to a facility for treatment.
    The problem with that, is thanks to the ACLU and the US Supreme Court, we are powerless to do that, at this time.
    In the late 80’s a Kansas pedophile who had completed his prison term, was kept in the penal system because he was deemed a “HIGH” treat to re-offend. He sued Kansas to be freed as he had completed his sentence and was being held against his will. The ACLU jumped on board and added ANYONE who was committed against their will in a prison (after sentence was served) or a mental institution.
    The case went all the way to the USSC, who upheld the suit.
    The long term issues were never looked at, but included a HUGE upswing in the homeless population and more recently – the deaths in Newtown, CT at the hands of Adam Lanza (his mother had wanted him committed, but because of this law, the process to involuntarily commit a person is painstakingly LONG and expensive.
    Homeless can be split into (for the sake of simplicity) four groups:
    1. Those homeless due loss of employment/debt/financial issues/abuse…etc.
    2. Substance abuse – legal/illegal, drug/alcohol
    3. Mental Illness
    4. Those that WANT to live that way
    There are program for #1 and #2, but the people, esp. in #2 need to WANT that help, otherwise they will just return to the abusive lifestyle.
    #3 presents the biggest problem, until the involuntary commitment rule is changed NATION wide, those in this category can only be help for 48 hours.
    As for the people in group 4 (some studies show this to be anywhere between 40-60%)…SCREW THEM!!!! They CHOSE to live this way, let them fend for themselves. if and when they decide to become productive members of society, the programs will be available.
    REMEMBER this, we need to concentrate the limited funding on those that WANT out of the homeless lifestyle.
    I’m not cold-hearted, but I believe that funds should be spent on those WANTING to change, instead of those just looking for a handout.

  • MML April 1, 2015 (10:17 am)

    IMHO its ok to “complain” or be concerned without having a “solution”. The two concepts are not related.

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