Tent City 5 is a village of 68 souls camped in the train-tracked cleavage between Magnolia and Queen Anne. People, many of whom formerly slept on sidewalks or in cars, live inside tents on raised platforms here. There’s a security desk at the camp’s sole entrance. But none of that can stay for much longer.
The city-imposed deadline for Tent City 5 to move from its two-year home in the Interbay neighborhood is in November. That ultimatum comes from the 2015 legislation by which Mayor Ed Murray and the Seattle City Council created Seattle’s first three city-sponsored encampments, in the Ballard, Rainier Valley, and Interbay neighborhoods. There have been permitted homeless encampments in Seattle for decades, but until two years ago they were all hosted by churches or similar groups, not authorities. The legislation allows the camps to stay for a year with a possible second-year extension. TC5 is now at the tail end of that extension.
With the upcoming November deadline in their sites, activists with a local Neighborhood Action Council are lobbying the Port of Seattle and Seattle City Council to find a new location nearby, in order to preserve the relationships and human capital that TC5 residents have developed in the area. The NACtivists say the Port owns a nearby property that might work as a new site, but the location isn’t yet public.
The Neighborhood Action Councils were born in response to last year’s fateful election. Acting in concert as the Neighborhood Action Coalition, the organization’s overriding focus since then has been to pass an income tax as part of the Trump Proof Seattle coalition. On July 10, the Seattle City Council obliged. Still high as kites from that victory, Neighborhood Action Councils began brainstorming new projects. The District 7 NAC, which includes a 30-person homeless subcommittee, had already worked along TC5 residents during a “Litterbusters” community cleanup, and they decided to lobby local authorities to keep the tent city in the Interbay neighborhood.
“It’s unfair that they have to move from a place that works for them,” said Carol Isaac on Thursday at the Queen Anne farmer’s market, where she was one of three volunteers gathering signatures in support of keeping TC5 in Interbay. Along with Shaun Glaze, and Dan Herbrott, she was asking passersby for their signatures on a petition reading, “I support having Tent City 5 remain within the Interbay neighborhood, at a new location.”
The NACtivists don’t have a specific number of signatures in mind as a goal—just as many as possible by the Port commissioner’s meeting on July 25, in order to show community support for the tent city.
Glaze, a graduate student with a three-year-old child, was having mixed success. In one case, a trio of young women wearing sleeveless summer blouses stared at them blankly in response. “OK, have a great day, thanks!” responded Glaze. Two guys in their thirties wearing T-shirts and baseball caps kept walking through their gentle entreaty, saying, “We’re not really in that mode, but good luck to you!” A middle-aged woman walking two small dogs declined as well, explaining, “It’s been a rough day. My neighbor shot himself in the head this morning.”
But other people signed. A young guy—armed with his own clipboard, gathering donations for Save the Children—said as he signed that he’d had “a real turning point” recently when he decided to care about people living in a state of homelessness. An elderly woman with gray hair and trousers, golden necklace and earrings, signed, saying, “They gotta live somewhere, right?” A young woman wearing a white sun dress and Chaco sandals declined to sign because “I don’t know enough about it.” Glaze handed her an explanatory flier.
“I see all the tent cities around the area,” said Don Davis, a signatory who lives in Kent but works with developmentally disabled adults in Queen Anne. “I think it’s a good idea; I don’t know where else they’ll go. Especially if there are other property owners that are willing to have their tents on their property, I don’t see why not.”
As we previously reported, other neighbors have testified to the Seattle City Council in support of TC5. “Over the course of the [almost] two years, things have changed dramatically from that fear-based outcry of ‘Not in my backyard’ and ‘Bad things are going to happen,’ to, ‘Oh, these are our neighbors,’” said the Rev. Marilyn Cornwell, rector at Episcopal Church of the Ascension in Magnolia. “They help clean up the neighborhood … [and] they have a good relationship with the Seattle Police Department.”
Some readers criticized that previous article as a “low-content puff piece on SHARE” (the organization which administers TC5) and a “propaganda piece for the homeless industrial complex.” Jackie Emerald wrote that she avoids the Interbay QFC grocery store now for fear of attack by violent homeless people. Elliot Cain, an investments manager, wrote that he was a member of Rev. Cornwell’s church, but will now “never step foot in her congregation again due to her support of SHARE.”
The NACtivists plan to present their signatures to the Port of Seattle Commissioners meeting on July 25.
This post has been edited to correct pronouns.