[Hpn] No Tent City opened in Northeast Tacoma yesterday

William Charles Tinker wtinker@metrocast.net
Mon, 12 Jul 2004 13:54:47 -0400


Risks, real estate both too steep to commit to tent city - yet


No tent city opened in Northeast Tacoma yesterday.

The precipitous plan for an equally precipitous piece of property on Marine
View Drive fell off the table at Thursday's meeting of the Pierce County
Homeless Coalition.
The coalition refused to back the effort to rush a camp onto property at the
center of a dispute over access to water. It refused to sanction a situation
that would have thrust residents, who already have it tough enough, into the
center of a bitter argument in a neighborhood totally unprepared for
homeless residents.
Tent cities are a hard enough sell in the best of situations.
But a tent city might be necessary in Pierce County, where a significant
number of people live out in the open, in camps, under bridges or in vacant
In one of the great ironies of civic life, members of the coalition have,
for the past few meetings, been nailed by passionate criticism that there
are still people living at risk on the streets.
The 50-so coalition members are mere humans who spend their days maintaining
shelters of all kinds. They house thousands of people every night from
Sumner to Tacoma. They are working on getting shelters for teens, for
married couples, for people who can't get sober. They run educational
programs that help homeless people get back among the housed and stay there.
They connect their clients to the services needed to repair broken lives.
They scrabble through grant applications and lobby legislators. They
contribute to the meetings that make this county's fight against
homelessness a collaborative effort. Oh, yeah, and they're building one of
the nation's first models for the system changes needed to eliminate chronic
homelessness in 10 years.
They, as well as anyone sleeping under an overpass, know the limitations of
the resources. They are looking - literally - at variations on the tent city
idea because so many people out there need a safe place to lay their heads.
Still, from the street side, the process seems slow.
During the meeting, after a discussion of long-term planning, John Aquino of
Got Jesus Street Ministry rose.
"It's fine to have meetings and plan for the future," he said. "But what are
you doing tomorrow?"
Janne Hutchins, director of Lakewood Area Shelter Association, answered. I
admire her for admitting that the question stung.
"We're doing it today,'' she replied. "And at the same time, we are trying
to come up with a long-term solution."
Now coalition members are conceding they might need to add short-term
solutions into the mission. It's a concession to the burgeoning need and to
the brutality of life on the street. It cannot, they agree, be a stunt
played for shock value.
Aquino and the people with him liked what they heard and stayed after the
meeting to see how they could help.
"The Homeless Coalition is committed to ending homelessness in Pierce
County," said outgoing co-chair Helen Myrick. "We recognize a need to
consider all possible models that offer sanctuary from the dangerous and
miserable conditions of living on the streets. However, we want to be smart
about what we do and want to work closely with the community if we ever do
attempt to site a tent city."
The models are out there, said Julie Youngblood-Pedersen, who is
coordinating a tour of Portland's Dignity Village on Wednesday, and who
heard a presentation by King County's SHARE/Wheel Thursday. Already, members
are working at converting crime-ridden motels into supervised shelter. They
are scoping out innovative low-cost housing.
Whatever they decide on, it will be on the level - with residents and the

Kathleen Merryman: 253-597-8677


Published  July 10th, 2004

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