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Seattle Mayor’s Plan For Homeless Encampments Draws Criticism From Tent City Residents

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Residents of tent cities in Seattle are speaking out against a proposal from Seattle Mayor Ed Murray to allow more such encampments.

Murray’s plan would change city code to allow three homeless encampments on city-owned or private property in non-residential areas. The city already allows tent cities hosted by religious institutions, and those encampments can be in residential areas. The new ones would fall under a separate code.

Residents of two of Seattle’s tent cities turned out for a council committee hearing. They said the mayor’s plan amounts to deliberately separating homeless people from people who have homes. Richard Baker called it discriminatory.

“Like telling me because of who or what I am, I am not a full citizen and do not belong here. ‘We will help you, but you do not belong here.’ Well, I am a full citizen and I do belong here,” Baker said.

City officials say keeping the new tent cities out of residential zones would ensure that they’re spread throughout Seattle. They say the ones currently hosted by religious groups are usually in residential areas.

The council’s Planning and Land Use Committee will continue discussion of the proposal on Feb. 20.

The recent one-night count of homeless people showed a 21 percent jump in King County.

In July 2017, Ashley Gross became KNKX's youth and education reporter after years of covering the business and labor beat. She joined the station in May 2012 and previously worked five years at WBEZ in Chicago, where she reported on business and the economy. Her work telling the human side of the mortgage crisis garnered awards from the Illinois Associated Press and the Chicago Headline Club. She's also reported for the Alaska Public Radio Network in Anchorage and for Bloomberg News in San Francisco.

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