Asylee Encampment at RPUMC


Due to the overcapacity at the Riverton Park United Methodist Church and housing and support services shortages, asylum-seekers are strongly advised to seek temporary residence outside of the City of Tukwila. Important information about how to navigate the asylee process can found here:



  • 4/19/24 – The large tent remains at capacity with 75 people staying inside. Seventeen individuals are staying outside in smaller tents, the number of which has been reduced significantly. The church roughly estimates that the total number of asylum seekers onsite is 250.

    On Thursday (4/18/24) King County announced it’s awarding Tukwila a $2 million grant to address homelessness. Details of how the funds will be used are in discussion between city and county staff, including whether the money could be used for asylum seeker support.

  • 4/5/24 – There are 75 individuals living in the large tent. Conditions have improved and the number of smaller tents has diminished significantly – down to only 20 people. Private security has been hired for the site. New individuals continue to show up to RPUMC daily. City staff has been working the church to find alternatives and limit the population. Current Tukwila expenditures, including six-moth projections, total $1,142,582.
  • 3/20/24 – The City Council participated in a comprehensive briefing on the RPUMC during the Monday, March 18 meeting. The full presentation is available to watch online via TukTV (starts around the 1 hr. mark). Also on Monday, Governor Jay Inslee signed HB 2368 which allocates state funding to help address the issue. Mayor Tom McLeod attended the ceremony. Staff is working through details of the legislation to determine specific dollar amounts and next steps.City and church staff started moving participants inside the large tent beginning March 13. There are 42 individuals that have moved inside so far. Over the weekend it was reported that additional families had showed up at the site.
  • 3/11/2024 – A recent census identifies the number of people staying onsite still at 240. This includes 31 families. The larger tent setup is nearly complete and city staff are currently working on the remaining details to prepare the inside for people to stay. The project is also adjusting for some unforeseen onsite challenges. The goal is to begin moving people in as early as this week. A live City Council briefing on the city’s RPUMC work has been rescheduled for the next meeting on Monday, March 18.
  • 2/23/2024 – The current estimate is 240 people (includes asylees staying inside and outside). The city has been working to prepare the site for the temporary installation of a large tent, with a goal of that tent being the only outdoor sleeping area and removing personal tents. It’s estimated that assembly will begin Feb. 27 and be completed by March 1. The process to prep the tent for people to stay in it will take an additional week after that.
  • 2/16/2024 – Site numbers have increased significantly since the cold weather event last month. Estimates place 178 individuals onsite. Last week, the city and church signed memorandum of understanding (MOU) aimed at reducing numbers on the site and maintaining safer conditions.



Beginning in 2023, over 600 asylees have passed through an encampment site owned and managed by the Riverton Park United Methodist Church (RPUMC) in Tukwila. Most of the residents are asylum-seekers from Venezuela, Angola and Congo, fleeing violence and conflict in their homeland. The site is beyond capacity, with an estimated 400 individuals on the site in late 2023. The situation at RPUMC raises significant public health and safety concerns and qualifies as a humanitarian crisis.

An asylum-seeker is a person who has left their country and is seeking protection from persecution, but who hasn’t yet been legally recognized as a refugee. The process requires them to apply and receive a decision on their asylum claim.

Given the increasing number of asylees and potential impacts to neighboring cities, Tukwila is committed to finding an effective regional solution.


City actions

The City of Tukwila has taken a number of actions to assist the asylees at RPUMC. The church owns and operates the site, with the city only able to act in an advisory role.

  • On Oct. 6, 2023 the City of Tukwila proclaimed a “state of emergency”in an effort to help address the crisis and raise awareness. The declaration allows the city to adopt emergency zoning rules, suspend competitive bidding, and seek funding from the State of Washington and the Federal Government to address the growing need of asylum-seekers.
  • Tukwila has deployed an emergency management structure to help organize and coordinate the response – including assigning several staff and external subject matter experts to assist. Currently officials are focused on working with King County, the state, partner agencies and local stakeholders to develop a firm plan to directly assist the families.
  • In 2023 the city hired consultants to advise on ways to improve and better manage the RPUMC site. They meet regularly with RPUMC officials and city staff at the encampment.
  • On Dec. 6, 2023 King County, working with the city, announced funding of up to 100 hotel rooms for people living in and around the RPUMC. The process will prioritize the most vulnerable at the site, including families with small children or those who are pregnant.
  • A draft encampment ordinance to formally address a variety of issues and in line with state regulations was discussed by the city council in December 2023. An updated version may be presented to the council for further consideration in 2024. At this time, no revised encampment ordinance has been forwarded for review or approval.
  • From Jan. 13-17, 2024 during the extreme cold weather city staff assisted and helped pay for the temporary housing of RPUMC asylees at a local hotel. Throughout this time staff has been working diligently with the church to reorganize the site, clear garbage and address other health and safety concerns.
  • In February 2024 the city and church signed the memorandum of understanding (MOU) that is aimed at reducing numbers on the site and maintaining safer conditions. Tukwila has brokered the acquisition and mobilization of a large temporary walled tent with heating and ventilation to provide improved sheltering to individuals and families.



Many members of the community have reached out directly to city staff offering to help. For smaller donations (blankets, supplies, food, etc.) or offers to assist please contact RPUMC directly at

For large scale donations or housing proposals, please forward the inquiry to Parks and Recreation Director Pete Mayer, at


News clips

Media Contact

Brad Harwood