[Hpn] Breaking news: Seattle's Tent City WON IN COURT!

Anitra Freeman anitra@speakeasy.org
Thu, 27 Sep 2001 13:24:29 -0700 (PDT)


Just hours ago, a judge handed down the official decision in the King
County Court of Appeals that the City of Seattle's Department of
Construction and Land Use should have granted the Tent City permit
application last year.  The judge cited national land use codes and said
that "obviously tents are used as habitations," making it impossible for
the City of Seattle to use the grounds that living in tents is not
legally permissible to deny future permit applications.

Tent City was begun by the homeless organizing groups WHEEL and SHARE on
March 31, 1999 to provide safe shelter and mutual support for some of
the 2500+ homeless men, women and families who have to sleep outside
because they have no other option.  Seattle has approximately 5500
homeless people and approximately 2800 shelter spaces.  Even special
arrangements for vulnerable women and homeless families are far below
the need.

After the first few months of camping on various public lands, Tent City
began receiving invitations from churches to use their land or parking
lots.  The tents still had to move frequently--on the average, every two
weeks--due to the City of Seattle's insistence that the tent community
violated zoning regulations.

In July of 2000, El Centro de la Raza, a Latino community center,
invited Tent City to use their property for six months, and applied for
a permit from DCLU.  During the public comment period, DCLU received
over 300 letters of support for Tent City, and about twenty in
opposition.  The police department testified that Tent City had no
negative impact on public safety in the area. DCLU still denied the
permit.

Tent City and El Centro appealed the denial, even though the original
permit period had run out, because a decision in our favor would
dismiss the accumulated fines against El Centro for violation of zoning
regulations-- $75 a day for the six months that Tent City stayed at El
Centro.  The decision also sets a precedent for future permit
applications to be approved.

Tent City has moved a total of 20 times since March 31, 1999.  We are
currently hosted by Dunlap Baptist Church at 8445 Rainier Ave South,
moving Sunday September 31 to The Church by the Side of the Road at
Pacific Highway South and South 148th in Tukwila.  We will be staying
there until November 17, 2001.  A neighborhood meeting is scheduled at
the church on Friday, September 28, at 7PM.

Most churches have limited property; they usually loan us their parking
lots.  In such cases, six weeks is a long time.  But if a future host
has the appropriate land for an extended stay, it will now be possible.

And one more precedent is set for our brothers and sisters outside in
tents in Portland, Oregon and elsewhere.


Write On! / Anitra L. Freeman / http://www.speakeasy.org/~anitra/
"We can't help everyone.  We can't fix everything.  It hurts.
 But it is better to live with pain than to live without caring."