Seattle to close controversial tiny house encampment

SEATTLE — On Tuesday, the city of Seattle announced plans to shut down the Licton Springs tiny village in 2019. Licton Springs is one of eight tiny house villages around the city that serve approximately 350 homeless people every night. It has been in operation since 2017, providing residents access to shelter, restrooms, showers, kitchen and case management. As a "low barrier" encampment, residents do not have to be clean or sober to live there. In the spring, the city extended the permit for an additional year, despite concerns raised by people who live near the village that it has led to an increase in crime.

According to Seattle Police records obtained by KIRO 7, crime in Licton Springs increased 100 percent in just one year. During the same time-period, crime in the larger area covered by the North Precinct dropped 7 percent. The Low Income Housing Institute, or LIHI, runs Licton Springs. In July, the organization shared an action plan with KIRO 7 on how it's addressing neighborhood safety concerns, including adding more security lights, security cameras and keeping better track or who's coming and going from the village.

Despite taking steps to address the challenges, city leaders have decided not to renew the village permit when it expires in March of 2019. According to the city, 77% of its residents are chronically homeless and 69 percent have experienced more than 12 months of being homeless over the last three years. The Navigation Team, which refers residents to the village, says the program was designed to serve people for brief periods, but 39 of the 53 people in the village have stayed there longer than one year.

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A plan laying out the next steps was posted on the city’s website on Wednesday. It says the goal is to find permanent housing for Licton Spring residents in the coming months. To help meet this goal, the city’s Seattle Human Services Department plans to add additional case management to connect residents with housing or alternate shelter. The city says it will also apply lessons learned from Licton Springs to its other villages, including a new village planned for South Lake Union.

That includes:

- Guiding referrals of unsheltered people to programs that most effectively meet their needs;

- Reflect case management ratios and other behavioral and medical health resources reflective of the needs of clients;

- Case management and active housing search efforts should be required of people who enter the village programs; and

- Onsite enrichment programming to support residents transiting from the streets.

Permits for the Georgetown and Camp Second Chance tiny villages are also set to expire in 2019, however, the city has not yet made a decision whether or not to continue operations.

In her recently proposed budget, Mayor Jenny Durkan renewed funding for the tiny village program as part of the larger homelessness response that will receive $89.5 million, a slight increase from the $86.7 million budgeted for 2018.