[Hpn] tent city

joe reynolds jos_reyn@yahoo.com
Thu, 10 Jul 2003 21:35:26 -0700 (PDT)


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Sometimes I feel hopeful...

Tuesday, July 8, 2003

Roving shelter wins over neighbors
Tent City for homeless sets up housekeeping in Wedgwood

By JESSICA BENNETT
SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER REPORTER

Tucked between a neighborhood playfield, school and synagogue, the parking lot at Wedgwood's Temple Beth Am has given Tent City another place to call home, for now. 

While the roving homeless encampment doesn't stay in one place for long, its location has become less important than what lies behind it. For many of Seattle's homeless, Tent City provides the foundation they need to get their lives back in order.
  Dan DeLong / P-I Dee Hickerson braids the hair of her fiance, Robert Eadie, in their community's new home site at Temple Beth Am in northeast Seattle. The couple are residents of Tent City.
"I happened upon this place going from women's shelter to women's shelter," said Diane Lee, who has been living in the encampment since June, when it was in Shoreline. "It was a family community right from the beginning. They welcomed me in."

When Lee left Phoenix and boarded a Seattle-bound bus to look for a better job a month ago, she never envisioned herself living in a tent, let alone in a tent-enclave for otherwise homeless people. But her wallet was stolen on the bus ride. And without identification, the prospects of finding employment began to look grim.

Lee needed a place to get back on her feet while she waited for replacement identification. At Tent City, she said, she found solace, support and acceptance in the strangers who have become her friends.

"It's nice here," she said. "It's quiet at night. You don't have to worry about safety. You can sleep peacefully here. It's like having a family."

Like Lee, many of Tent City's residents are new to the shelter. But Tent City itself has been around for years. Sponsored by the Seattle Housing and Resource Effort (SHARE), the shelter is one of 15 run by the non-profit advocacy group, King County's largest shelter provider. 

SHARE's staff is made up of homeless or formerly homeless people working to "survive and solve homelessness." Organizers say the shelter, supported by private donations, costs more than $4,000 a month to operate.

"We're hoping to gain more recognition of the seriousness of homelessness (with Tent City)," said Jeff Roderick, a SHARE board member who has lived at Tent City for nine months. "Personally, I foresee myself living here for a long time. I don't know if it's my destiny or not, but I'm going to do all I can to help (the homeless situation)."

Tent City at Temple Beth Am is actually the third of SHARE's outdoor tent shelters. Tent City I, started in 1990, lasted almost a decade before it was converted into the Aloha Inn Transitional Housing Project, in North Seattle. Tent City II, started in 1998, lasted three weeks before it was dismantled by the city. And the current Tent City, Tent City III, has been through a lawsuit to survive.

Tent City had run afoul of neighbors and of city officials, who once threatened fines over codes and sanitation ordinances. After being denied a camping permit while staying at Beacon Hill's El Centro de la Raza in 2000, SHARE appealed to the King County Superior Court. 

A judge ruled in 2001 that tent camps on private land are not illegal. 

In March 2002, the Seattle City Attorney's Office signed an agreement with SHARE recognizing the legality of Tent City III and setting standards for its operation.

Now the only legally recognized outdoor shelter in Seattle, Tent City can stay on private property for up to three months before it must move on. Last month, it was at a church in Shoreline. In August, it will head to St. Mark's Cathedral on Capitol Hill.

Longtime residents say they have grown accustomed to the transient lifestyle. 

"All of the locations have been wonderful," Roderick said. "We've been in the direct path of the airport, and here, we wake up to the sound of birds."

Self-governed by its residents, Tent City has a zero tolerance policy for drugs, alcohol, weapons, violence and abusive behavior. Everyone in camp participates in maintenance. They work security shifts, take part in neighborhood litter cleanup and elect committee members who serve two-week terms at overseeing camp operations.

"They have their own rules in Tent City. They essentially police themselves," said D. Cookie Bouldin of the Seattle Police Department's East Precinct. 

Tent City has been pitched at St. Mark's Cathedral in the East Precinct patrol area repeatedly. Bouldin said the only comments she's heard have been from community members who fear the possibility of crime, but she hasn't seen any incidents. 

"They want to follow the rules of the community and police because they want to stay," she said.

Two-thirds of Tent City's residents have jobs or get government assistance for disabilities. The other one-third are "actively trying" to find work, Roderick said.

"People aren't just here to squat and flop. A lot of us are trying to better our lives," Lee said.

Roderick, who has managed a soup kitchen in Portland and lived in Portland's tent city, said he hopes to get more of the encampments going in Seattle.

"After all the shelters are full, there are still 3,000 people left on the streets every night," he said. "We could have 10 Tent Cities and it still wouldn't be enough."

According to the Seattle-King County Coalition for the Homeless' 2002 report, there are 7,980 homeless people in Seattle-King County on any given night, but room for only 4,674 people in county shelters.

With city regulations capping Tent City's population at 100, Roderick said the shelter sometimes turns away as many as 20 people in a given night.

At Temple Beth Am, where Tent City has been since June 22, Executive Director Sandy Voit said he hopes the group's presence will help "raise awareness" of Seattle's persistent homeless problem.

"There are a lot of people who are maybe four or five paychecks away from being homeless," Voit said. 

"As a congregation, it's our zeal to provide sanctuary. ... We want to bring awareness to folks in this situation."

Every Tuesday, Temple Beth Am holds a dinner and movie in its social hall for Tent City residents. Electricity, running water and sanitation is provided with the help of University Prep Academy, the school that borders one side of Tent City. The school has offered access to its locker room showers.

"The kids spent all year collecting toiletries, towels and other items," University Prep Head of School Erica Hamlin said. 

"In many ways, I wish (Tent City) was here when school was in session so the kids could participate. It would have been a great way for the kids to give."

Hamlin said her initial concern with Tent City's proximity to the school was largely eased by residents themselves, who spoke at a meeting before the move.

"Our neighborhood concern was for the safety of the children," Hamlin said. "People had legitimate concerns, but the Tent City residents who spoke were open and articulate and addressed the questions that the neighborhood had. The information from SHARE really reassured us."

Brian Swanson, president of Wedgwood Community Council, said he welcomes Tent City.

"Wedgwood is an inclusive community," he said. "These are people down on their luck, and we welcome them to the community."

Tent City residents work to maintain that welcome. 

Roderick said he tries to encounter the neighbors when he's on his "litter buster" shift -- cleaning up trash -- so he can make a good impression.

"The more that we're out there cleaning our neighborhood, the more we can show that we're not the bad guys," he said. 

"When you've got money, you don't think about those who don't. Just because we are without a house, it doesn't mean we're going to be panhandling. All we want is a safe place to get on our feet."

TO LEARN MORE

For more information about Tent City, call the Seattle Housing and Resource Effort at 206-448-7889. Tent City is co-organized by the Women's Housing Equality and Enhancement League. (Note: An incorrect phone number was given when this article was originally published.) 

P-I reporter Jessica Bennett can be reached at 206-448-8320 or jessicabennett@seattlepi.com





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<DIV>Sometimes I feel hopeful...</DIV>
<DIV>
<P class=rddateline>Tuesday, July 8, 2003</P>
<P class=rdheadline>Roving shelter wins over neighbors<BR><SPAN class=rddeckline>Tent City for homeless sets up housekeeping in Wedgwood</SPAN></P>
<P class=rdbyline>By <A href="mailto:jessicabennett@seattlepi.com">JESSICA BENNETT</A><BR>SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER REPORTER</P>
<P>Tucked between a neighborhood playfield, school and synagogue, the parking lot at Wedgwood's Temple Beth Am has given Tent City another place to call home, for now. </P>
<P>While the roving homeless encampment doesn't stay in one place for long, its location has become less important than what lies behind it. For many of Seattle's homeless, Tent City provides the foundation they need to get their lives back in order.</P>
<TABLE cellSpacing=0 cellPadding=0 width=236 align=right border=0>
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<TR vAlign=top>
<TD width=10>&nbsp;</TD>
<TD colSpan=2><IMG height=142 alt="Braiding hair" src="http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/dayart/20030708/226tentcityXX_braid.jpg" width=226 border=0></TD></TR>
<TR vAlign=top>
<TD width=10>&nbsp;</TD>
<TD width=45><A href="http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/photos/photo.asp?PhotoID=23653"><IMG height=14 alt=Zoom src="http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/art2/zoom.gif" width=42 border=0></A></TD>
<TD class=credit align=right>Dan DeLong / P-I</TD></TR>
<TR>
<TD width=10>&nbsp;</TD>
<TD class=caption colSpan=2>Dee Hickerson braids the hair of her fiance, Robert Eadie, in their community's new home site at Temple Beth Am in northeast Seattle. The couple are residents of Tent City.</TD></TR></TBODY></TABLE>
<P>"I happened upon this place going from women's shelter to women's shelter," said Diane Lee, who has been living in the encampment since June, when it was in Shoreline. "It was a family community right from the beginning. They welcomed me in."</P>
<P>When Lee left Phoenix and boarded a Seattle-bound bus to look for a better job a month ago, she never envisioned herself living in a tent, let alone in a tent-enclave for otherwise homeless people. But her wallet was stolen on the bus ride. And without identification, the prospects of finding employment began to look grim.</P>
<P>Lee needed a place to get back on her feet while she waited for replacement identification. At Tent City, she said, she found solace, support and acceptance in the strangers who have become her friends.</P>
<P>"It's nice here," she said. "It's quiet at night. You don't have to worry about safety. You can sleep peacefully here. It's like having a family."</P>
<P>Like Lee, many of Tent City's residents are new to the shelter. But Tent City itself has been around for years. Sponsored by the Seattle Housing and Resource Effort (SHARE), the shelter is one of 15 run by the non-profit advocacy group, King County's largest shelter provider. </P>
<P>SHARE's staff is made up of homeless or formerly homeless people working to "survive and solve homelessness." Organizers say the shelter, supported by private donations, costs more than $4,000 a month to operate.</P>
<P>"We're hoping to gain more recognition of the seriousness of homelessness (with Tent City)," said Jeff Roderick, a SHARE board member who has lived at Tent City for nine months. "Personally, I foresee myself living here for a long time. I don't know if it's my destiny or not, but I'm going to do all I can to help (the homeless situation)."</P>
<P>
<TABLE cellSpacing=0 cellPadding=0 align=right border=0>
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<TR>
<TD align=middle>
<SCRIPT language=JavaScript>
<!--
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<A target=_top href="http://ads.nwsource.com/RealMedia/ads/click_lx.ads/www.seattlep-i.com/local/articles/11692/Middle2/CLEARDOT-RON-Middle2/z_addot.gif/63653730373034323366306533636430"><IMG alt="" src="http://ads.nwsource.com/RealMedia/ads/Creatives/CLEARDOT-RON-Middle2/z_addot.gif" border=0></A></TD></TR>
<TR>
<TD align=middle>
<SCRIPT language=JavaScript>
<!--
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<A target=_top href="http://ads.nwsource.com/RealMedia/ads/click_lx.ads/www.seattlep-i.com/local/articles/23711/Middle3/CLEARDOT-RON-Middle3/z_addot.gif/63653730373034323366306533636430"><IMG alt="" src="http://ads.nwsource.com/RealMedia/ads/Creatives/CLEARDOT-RON-Middle3/z_addot.gif" border=0></A></TD></TR></TBODY></TABLE>Tent City at Temple Beth Am is actually the third of SHARE's outdoor tent shelters. Tent City I, started in 1990, lasted almost a decade before it was converted into the Aloha Inn Transitional Housing Project, in North Seattle. Tent City II, started in 1998, lasted three weeks before it was dismantled by the city. And the current Tent City, Tent City III, has been through a lawsuit to survive.</P>
<P>Tent City had run afoul of neighbors and of city officials, who once threatened fines over codes and sanitation ordinances. After being denied a camping permit while staying at Beacon Hill's El Centro de la Raza in 2000, SHARE appealed to the King County Superior Court. </P>
<P>A judge ruled in 2001 that tent camps on private land are not illegal. </P>
<P>In March 2002, the Seattle City Attorney's Office signed an agreement with SHARE recognizing the legality of Tent City III and setting standards for its operation.</P>
<P><B></B>Now the only legally recognized outdoor shelter in Seattle, Tent City can stay on private property for up to three months before it must move on. Last month, it was at a church in Shoreline. In August, it will head to St. Mark's Cathedral on Capitol Hill.</P>
<P>Longtime residents say they have grown accustomed to the transient lifestyle. </P>
<P>"All of the locations have been wonderful," Roderick said. "We've been in the direct path of the airport, and here, we wake up to the sound of birds."</P>
<P>Self-governed by its residents, Tent City has a zero tolerance policy for drugs, alcohol, weapons, violence and abusive behavior. Everyone in camp participates in maintenance. They work security shifts, take part in neighborhood litter cleanup and elect committee members who serve two-week terms at overseeing camp operations.</P>
<P>"They have their own rules in Tent City. They essentially police themselves," said D. Cookie Bouldin of the Seattle Police Department's East Precinct. </P>
<P>Tent City has been pitched at St. Mark's Cathedral in the East Precinct patrol area repeatedly. Bouldin said the only comments she's heard have been from community members who fear the possibility of crime, but she hasn't seen any incidents. </P>
<P>"They want to follow the rules of the community and police because they want to stay," she said.</P>
<P>Two-thirds of Tent City's residents have jobs or get government assistance for disabilities. The other one-third are "actively trying" to find work, Roderick said.</P>
<P>"People aren't just here to squat and flop. A lot of us are trying to better our lives," Lee said.</P>
<P>Roderick, who has managed a soup kitchen in Portland and lived in Portland's tent city, said he hopes to get more of the encampments going in Seattle.</P>
<P>"After all the shelters are full, there are still 3,000 people left on the streets every night," he said. "We could have 10 Tent Cities and it still wouldn't be enough."</P>
<P>According to the Seattle-King County Coalition for the Homeless' 2002 report, there are 7,980 homeless people in Seattle-King County on any given night, but room for only 4,674 people in county shelters.</P>
<P><B></B>With city regulations capping Tent City's population at 100, Roderick said the shelter sometimes turns away as many as 20 people in a given night.</P>
<P>At Temple Beth Am, where Tent City has been since June 22, Executive Director Sandy Voit said he hopes the group's presence will help "raise awareness" of Seattle's persistent homeless problem.</P>
<P>"There are a lot of people who are maybe four or five paychecks away from being homeless," Voit said. </P>
<P>"As a congregation, it's our zeal to provide sanctuary. ... We want to bring awareness to folks in this situation."</P>
<P>Every Tuesday, Temple Beth Am holds a dinner and movie in its social hall for Tent City residents. Electricity, running water and sanitation is provided with the help of University Prep Academy, the school that borders one side of Tent City. The school has offered access to its locker room showers.</P>
<P>"The kids spent all year collecting toiletries, towels and other items," University Prep Head of School Erica Hamlin said. </P>
<P>"In many ways, I wish (Tent City) was here when school was in session so the kids could participate. It would have been a great way for the kids to give."</P>
<P>Hamlin said her initial concern with Tent City's proximity to the school was largely eased by residents themselves, who spoke at a meeting before the move.</P>
<P>"Our neighborhood concern was for the safety of the children," Hamlin said. "People had legitimate concerns, but the Tent City residents who spoke were open and articulate and addressed the questions that the neighborhood had. The information from SHARE really reassured us."</P>
<P>Brian Swanson, president of Wedgwood Community Council, said he welcomes Tent City.</P>
<P>"Wedgwood is an inclusive community," he said. "These are people down on their luck, and we welcome them to the community."</P>
<P>Tent City residents work to maintain that welcome. </P>
<P>Roderick said he tries to encounter the neighbors when he's on his "litter buster" shift -- cleaning up trash -- so he can make a good impression.</P>
<P>"The more that we're out there cleaning our neighborhood, the more we can show that we're not the bad guys," he said. </P>
<P>"When you've got money, you don't think about those who don't. Just because we are without a house, it doesn't mean we're going to be panhandling. All we want is a safe place to get on our feet."</P>
<P>
<H3>
<H3>TO LEARN MORE</H3></H3>
<P></P>For more information about Tent City, call the Seattle Housing and Resource Effort at 206-448-7889. Tent City is co-organized by the Women's Housing Equality and Enhancement League. (<B>Note:</B> An incorrect phone number was given when this article was originally published.) 
<P>
<P class=vgray><B>P-I reporter Jessica Bennett can be reached at 206-448-8320 or <A href="mailto:jessicabennett@seattlepi.com">jessicabennett@seattlepi.com</A></B></P>
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