Unsheltered people occupy vacant Tacoma school building | KNKX

Unsheltered people occupy vacant Tacoma school building

2 hours ago

A group of unsheltered people moved into Tacoma's Gault Middle School building on Friday. It was an effort to escape the cold and demand the City of Tacoma address homelessness in a more permanent way.

In a press release, Tacoma Housing Now said an encampment of formerly houseless people are now living in the building, which the group says has sat empty for 11 years.

The group said two houseless people have died in the past week — one of exposure in his wheelchair.

KNKX Reporter Will James went to the building where some 10 people are now living, including a man named Nathaniel Stewart who says he now feels safer and more hopeful about getting out of homelessness. Stewart works temporary laborer jobs. He and others told KNKX they were living under a bridge on Tacoma's tideflats before occupying the school. Their main demand is that the city of Tacoma give the building over to a community-run land trust so it could be used for permanent housing... and to do the same with as many vacant, city-owned buildings as possible.

A school spokesman said the district is assessing the situation. Negotiations continued throughout the day throughout the day between activists supporting the occupiers and police.

Tacoma Mayor Victoria Woodards was not available today for comment, according to a Tacoma City Council staffer. 

Will James spoke to All Things Considered host Ed Ronco about the situation.

Rebekah Way contributed to this report.

This is a developing story.