Seattle councillors to vote on funding Internet access at homeless camps

The council believes that a public health concern exists in the homeless community of Nickelsville.

SEATTLE (Reuters) - The Seattle City Council was expected to vote Monday on a measure that would fund Internet access at the city's homeless camps.

Seattle City Council member Kshama Sawant wants a portion of a proposed $100,000 in the upcoming city budget that has been earmarked to improve conditions at homeless camps to include access to Internet, including possible wireless availability.

Sawant said Internet access will allow homeless individuals to look for jobs, communicate and keep up with news and current events.

"We are no longer looking at Internet as a luxury. We have to make sure we provide humane services for everybody," she local broadcaster KOMO.

The plan has been met with skepticism by some Seattle residents, who feel the money would be better spent on other initiatives.

"That's too much opportunity for abuse," resident Cindy Phillips told local television station KING 5. "There are public libraries, and other public resources such as WorkSource, that can better assist the homeless in finding the jobs, or other resources they need," she said.

The money to fund Internet and wireless access would come from a budget item set aside to improve other conditions in Seattle's homeless tent cities, including access to showers, electricity and cooking facilities.

The measure is expected to get pushback from the more conservative members of the city council.

It was unclear how many homeless encampments might get the Internet access should the measure pass. There are dozens of homeless tent cities, both small and large, around Seattle.

(Reporting by Victoria Cavaliere)