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.