In the nation, Washington state ranks 25th in child homelessness1. Over the last few weeks there’s been a lot of talk about the recent shooting at The Jungle, an unsanctioned encampment that spans from the SODO area into Georgetown. The three males allegedly involved in the shooting, all minors, were runaways from the foster care system. Youth running away from foster homes and entering the streets is a real and continuous problem in the system.
A tent city is a community made up of several tents where people who are homeless can sleep or hang around for free, although some tent cities have a small fee required. There are currently a total of four tent cities located around Seattle including Nicklesville and tent cities 3, 4, and 5. Mayor Ed Murray passed an amendment that would allow for three new tent cities to be sanctioned. Number 5 is the newest, located in Ballard’s Interbay area, with many other towns petitioning for their communities to provide shelter for the next tent city.
Generally, tent cities are more formally organized than encampments, which is a term for any area where people experiencing homelessness sleep outside.
in King County, we need to make changes...
By creating more affordable housing options,
investing in supportive programs that can help
people on the streets get off the streets,
and advocating for improvements in the foster care
system, we could create drastic change.”
Some people might find tent communities to be destructive, while others think it’s a positive thing. There are homeless advocates who say tent cities are harmful because it doesn’t provide a permanent solution, while some residents in communities where tent cities have been constructed don’t want them there due to their own personal reasons and safety concerns. Some local leaders are in support of new tent cities because they feel it’s better to have a roof over your head than not.
Tent cities and encampments remain a hot topic in the news. This recent shooting in the Jungle killed two people and wounded three others. The tragic event shed light on the different ways that the homeless and foster care systems intersect. In this incident, three youth, ages 13, 16, and 17 ran away from a foster home to stay with their biological mother. Her parental rights had been terminated and their father is incarcerated. The motivation for the shooting, allegedly, was a small debt owed to the boys’ mother2.
The increase in tent cities and encampments has pros and cons, but with a 19% increase in homelessness in King County3 last year, we need to make changes so events such as the Jungle shooting don’t continue to occur. By creating more affordable housing options, investing in supportive programs that can help people on the streets get off the streets, and advocating for improvements in the foster care system, we can create drastic change. Systems need to be changed in order to decrease the rising homeless population in our state as well as our current model of foster care delivery that fails many children and families in the system, especially adolescents.
1“Washington America’s Youngest Outcasts: State Report Card on Child Homelessness.” (n.d.): n. pag. Web. 11 Feb. 2016.
2“Welcome to the Jungle: Society’s Role in the Homeless Crisis, The Seattle Times, 2/6/16, Editorial, www.seattletimes.com/opinion/editorials/welcometo-the-jungle-societys-role-in-our-homeless-crisis/.
32016 Street Count Results.” Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 Feb. 2016. www.homelessinfo.org/what_we_do/one_night_count/2016_results.php>.