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Tent City 3

Tent City 3

FAQ: Your Questions Answered

What is a “Tent City”?

Tent Cities have been operating since 1990, and Tent City 3 began in 2000 on private land at Seattle’s MLK Way and S. Charleston Street.

In 2002, Seattle City Attorney Tom Carr, El Centro de la Raza, and SHARE/WHEEL signed a consent decree giving the encampment an ongoing permit and set forth its operating principles. Today, TC3 provides safe shelter for up to 100 men, women, and couples.

Where does Tent City 3 usually operate?

Tent City 3 operates primarily in Seattle, but also in Burien, SeaTac, and Shoreline. Tent City 4 operates on the east side of Lake Washington.

Where was TC3 located on the Seattle Pacific campus, and for how long?

Tent City 3 was located on the East lawn near the Student Union Building.  SPU hosted TC3 through March 7, 2015.

What about security and sanitation?

Tent cities have a strict code of conduct for residents. Residents must commit to a code of conduct that prohibits intoxication, drugs, and violence. Sex offenders are not allowed to stay at Tent City 3. Tent City 3 also has security workers, and the expectation is for community service to be performed by residents within and around the facility.

Community tents are used for food preparation, computers, a front entrance/desk, and meeting area.

Additionally, TC3 residents provide their own trash removal, have a shower facility and port-a-potties, and residents have access to bus tickets for work and/or appointments.

SPU’s Office of Safety and Security met with the TC3 leadership regarding safety and security. Measures were taken to provide a safe environment for TC3 and SPU. Because the Tiffany Loop location provided less privacy than the 2012 Wallace Field location allowed for TC3 residents, a privacy-screen fence was erected around the camp.

Who’s in charge?

Tent City 3 is part of Seattle Housing and Resource Effort (SHARE/WHEEL). Founded in 1990, its mission is to “eradicate homelessness, educate the community, and empower homeless people.” SHARE is a self-managed entity that helps to coordinate 15 indoor shelters and two tent cities.

While at SPU, a coordinating committee of staff, faculty, and students facilitated all university efforts. That committee met weekly with TC3 leaders to discuss all issues that arose.

What about empowerment? Do tent cities promote an end to homelessness?

Tent cities provide a needed but temporary resource on the way to an end to homelessness. King County is home to roughly 9,000 individuals experiencing homelessness, yet only about 6,000 emergency shelter beds exist in King County (Committee to End Homelessness, 2014. This leaves more than 3,000 people without any form of shelter each night (Seattle-King County Coalition on Homelessness, 2014.

Tent cities provide a consistent place to keep one’s belongings as well as a community-supervised safe space to live, allowing residents to focus on issues other than where they will find to sleep that night. This flexibility allows tent city residents the opportunity to search for work, attend appointments, and plan for the future (Loftus-Farren, 2011). Additionally, by providing temporary shelter for individuals capable of self-management, tent cities create space in the over-full traditional shelter system for individuals in need of supervision.

Where can I get a quick overview of the issue of homelessness in Seattle?

Visit the “Resources for Faculty” tab on this webpage for a short film in which people from the Seattle area share their experience of becoming homeless. After that, take a look at the 2014 annual report from the City of Seattle’s Committee to End Homelessness and the “The Role of Shelter in Addressing Homelessness,” from the Seattle-King County Coalition on Homelessness.



Quick Facts About TC3

  • Security is 24/7 at TC3
  • Quiet hours: 9 p.m.–8 a.m.
  • Self-managed community

    Strict rules — sobriety, no violence, no drugs
  • Eligibility is based on government-issued photo ID
  • 100 residents maximum
  • Single men and women; couples