Seattle's third homeless encampment opens Tuesday

Othello Village will house dozens of people in tents and tiny houses along MLK Junior Way in the Rainier Valley just south of the Othello light rail station.

The third sanctioned homeless encampment opens in Seattle Tuesday. Othello Village will house dozens of people in tents and tiny houses along MLK Junior Way in the Rainier Valley just south of the light rail station.

According to the Low Income Housing Institute, the first residents to move in will include three families with children.

LIHI, the Seattle non-profit that owns the land, will operate the new camp to accommodate up to 100 residents for one year or more. Organizers say the new camp will serve as a pathway for people to get back on their feet.

 "This is really a crisis response, this is not a long term response," said Sharon Lee, Executive Director of LIHI. "Hopefully if the people of Seattle can pass a housing levy, we can get people into real housing."

The city will pay around $160,000 per year to supply water and garbage services, and on site counseling. LIHI is providing hot showers at a location down the street.

Over the past few weeks volunteers like Amy Provenzano helped put the finishing touches on the encampment.

"[Homelessness is] talked about quite a bit because it's such a big problem," she said. "It's in everyone's faces and it's along the highways that everybody sees. You can't ignore it. You can't ignore it anymore."

The encampment is only temporary. The long-term plan is to develop a new home for a food bank and to build 100 affordable apartments. The director of LIHI says 27 others have found homes or jobs at similar camps in Ballard and Interbay.

A 'welcome neighbors' sign could be seen on the site's fence Tuesday. Lee says local elementary school students made the banner.

But not all neighbors are happy about the new camp. Jeremy Rene says many people are upset that the city approved the new camp without any public hearings.

"It isn't just that we are worried about what is going to happen in there. We just felt like we weren't a part of the process," he said.

Joan Merlin lives in the apartments just beside it.

"They have never put a tent city in anyone's back yard as far as I understand," she said.

"It's easy to say no one should live in a tent, right," Sharon Lee said. "But what can you do if you have hundreds of people living in tents illegally and it's not even safe and they're out on their own."

A spokesman in the mayor's office says the city was able to move more quickly with the permitting process, because of the mayor's declaration of emergency on homelessness.

"We want to make sure that the residents here are good neighbors," Lee said.

This is the third, city authorized, homeless encampment established since November. The previous two camps in the Ballard and Interbay neighborhoods were met with strong opposition and public scrutiny but remain open.

 

How would you feel if the city opened a homeless camp in your neighborhood?

Posted by KING 5 on Monday, March 7, 2016


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