Homeless Community Moves onto University Campus

Seattle, WA – At first glance, it might seem like a student protest is taking place at Seattle Pacific University, a private Christian institution in an affluent Seattle neighborhood. In the middle of campus is a cluster of about 20 tents, blue tarps, and board walkways, encircled by a metal fence with an American flag at the entrance. But this is actually a homeless camp of almost 80 residents, invited by SPU to live on campus until March 7, 2015.

Why did SPU invite homeless people to live on campus?

“Hosting Tent City 3 (TC3) is a concrete manifestation of Seattle Pacific University’s mission to engage the culture and change the world,” says SPU President Daniel J. Martin. “It provides our community a unique opportunity to care for and learn from our neighbor.”

Learning about the issues surrounding homelessness is a major component of the three-month visit by TC3. The university has hosted weekly forums, documentary screenings, and lectures from homeless and affordable housing advocates to help the community understand the complexity of poverty and living on the streets.

The city of Seattle has sanctioned four “tent cities,” consisting of no more than 100 men and women. They relocate every three months, usually staying on church property. The community is self-managed and has a strict code of conduct. Residents take care of their own amenities like garbage and showers.

This is actually the second time TC3 has set up residence at SPU, the first time being in 2012. As before, students, faculty, and staff are interacting with their new neighbors in a variety of ways. Students have organized poetry workshops, game nights, worship events, and a Super Bowl party. Nursing students host weekly foot care clinics. The Career Center invited TC3 residents to the annual “Senior Week,” a series of events for graduating seniors to help them prepare for life after college. Sessions included resume writing, interviewing skills, and managing money. Faculty regularly invite TC3 residents to their classroom.

“We want students to sit down with Tent City folks and get to know them,” says Owen Sallee, staff member and co-chair of SPU’s Host Committee. “When I know your name and learn from you, then we can be friends and learn about what the other person cares about.”

To learn more about TC3 and SPU, contact

Tracy Norlen, Manager of Public Information
University Communications
3307 Third Avenue West, Suite 116
Seattle, WA 98119-1922

Seattle Pacific University
Engaging the Culture, Changing the World

Posted: Thursday, February 12, 2015