[Hpn] Tent city plan is met with anger~NIMBY is alive in USA Folks!

William Charles Tinker wtinker@metrocast.net
Tue, 4 May 2004 12:05:18 -0400


www.kingcountyjournal.com

Anger greets tent city plan
2004-05-04
by Jeff Switzer
Journal Reporter

Shouting and jeering, residents who might see a proposed nomadic tent city
for the homeless dropped in their neighborhood vented raw anger and emotion
at Monday night meeting.
They railed against the county for rushing through the proposal and not
notifying neighbors. They wondered what will happen to property values.
Some shouted that legal funds would be raised to halt the group of up to 100
homeless men and women from moving in.
Barring that, Tent City4 will land on vacant land north of Kirkland on
Thursday morning.
As many as 30 homeless residents are expected to pitch army and REI tents
under a 90-day lease on county land. Tent City4 at 15530 Juanita-Woodinville
Way N.E. near Kingsgate might grow to 100 residents over time.
Monday's informational meeting at Cedar Park Christian Church gymnasium was
supposed to be a ``meet and greet'' --a chance for neighborhood residents to
ask questions of a panel of homeless, and formerly homeless, men and women.
But it also was the first and only time for neighbors surprised at the plan
to share their concerns.
``We're not here to put these people down,'' said Jack Devine. ``We want to
know why the hell King County took the steps they took and blindsided all of
us.''
His comments prompted the loudest cheers of the night from the audience of
about 300.
While homeless men and women -- some outspoken, some reticent -- answered
questions about hygiene, safety and criminal background checks, they were
regularly shouted down.
Some yelled for the panelists to ``get a job.'' Others wanted to know how
many had jobs (roughly 75 percent did) and how many were criminals.
``We screen for sex offenders,'' one said.
Another panelist said: ``We screen everyone to the same extent that a real
estate agent screens the person who buys the house next to you.''
The two Seattle-based advocacy groups that operate Tent City3 -- on church
property in Lake City -- forced the issue. They announced a plan last month
to move to a county park May 6 unless a site was provided by the county.
``It's an emergency,'' said Delmost Lee, a resident of Tent City3.
``Thirty-eight homeless people died in King County last year. Ten have died
this year.''
An annual count of homeless outside at night showed 2,000 without shelter.
To stave off a confrontation on county park land, County Executive Ron Sims
authorized the site north of Kirkland be home to Tent City4 for 90 days.
``We're going to leave after 90 days,'' said Leo Rhodes, a resident of Tent
City3. ``That's our commitment.''
The closest neighbors to the vacant patch of land are Interstate 405, the
Brickyard Road Park & Ride and the three-lane Juanita-Woodinville Way
Northeast. Tent City4's only roommates will be songbirds, Scotch broom and
blackberry brambles.
Blocks away are suburban subdivisions. Across the street, it's thick with
hundreds of apartments. The landlord spent the morning warning residents
about the tent city.
``Great,'' said 23-year-old Candice Lanphear, ``we just moved in Saturday.''
Her husband, Aaron, 22, sat on the floor assembling an IKEA DVD holder. Like
the tent city, the couple also want a permanent home someday, but they worry
maintaining a home would be more costly than apartment living.
``They have to go somewhere,'' he said. ``It's only 90 days. What are you
going to do?''
Church leaders who have hosted tent cities on asphalt parking lots issued
pleas for compassion and understanding. When one Seattle congregation member
intoned ``What would Jesus do?'' it was met with only tepid applause.
Emotions were still too raw at the sudden news announced just Friday that
the tent city was coming to suburban King County.
``Your message is received,'' County Councilwoman Carolyn Edmonds told the
packed gymnasium. Edmonds said she had a good experience with the Shoreline
Tent City and she assumed the neighbors of proposed Tent City4 would agree.
``I was wrong. I will take your message back.''
The most animated speaker and interjector was Scott St. Clair, who shouted:
``End King County's dictatorship! Where are the rights of the property
owners who have property for sale, rent or lease now?''
Many cried out for a vote on the issue.
``This was the best site, most feasible site for immediate occupancy,'' said
Elaine Kraft, Sims' spokeswoman. ``They've got tent city quite down to a
science. It's very efficient, self-governed and self-policed. They run every
bit of it.''
Under the proposal, Tent City4 would be established and operated by Seattle
Housing and Resource Effort (SHARE) and the Women's Housing, Equality and
Enhancement League (WHEEL). Both groups are made up solely of homeless and
formerly homeless men and women.
Earlier in the day, residents in the neighborhood said they're worried about
what idle hands might do during the day and what will happen to property
values.
The area is patrolled by the county Sheriff's Department, and already sees
its share of shattered car windows and missing stereos. Metro bus staff said
there are no plans to increase security at the adjacent Park & Ride.
Most residents were sympathetic to the misfortune of the poor and homeless,
but worry about the fringe of society coming to the area.
``It will bring a myriad of problems into the area,'' said builder Jeff
Nance. ``It's essentially a gypsy camp moving into town.''
The Park & Ride has a Woodinville address, but the neighborhood is neither
Bothell, Juanita, Kirkland nor Kingsgate. Like the tent city and the
residents of the apartment complex, it's somewhere in between.
``They say we're all just a few paychecks from being homeless,'' Nance said.
``A little compassion and understanding goes a long way.
``Ninety percent of what we worry about never happens,'' he said.
In a white SUV, Cathy Wert, her daughter and a friend cruised through the
Brickyard Park & Ride, snagging off a windshield an anonymous tent city
meeting flier that reads ``Safety of our school kids?'' ``Increase in
crime?'' ``Lower property values?''
Wert's home is a half-mile away, but her daughter is a student a Cedar Park
Christian School just a few blocks from the future Tent City4. She's worried
what might happen once the homeless men and women move in. Tent cities don't
belong in county neighborhoods, she said.
``Instead of moving every 90 days, they should find a permanent solution. It
doesn't make sense to me. The poor will always be with us. We need to find a
place for them.''
The King County Council will spend the summer considering 18 other
county-owned properties that could serve as a more permanent location for
Tent City4. None of the sites is in a park.
Jeff Switzer can be reached at jeff.switzer@kingcountyjournal.com or
425-453-4234.
TENT CITY CODE OF CONDUCT
Drug and alcohol free: Those caught drinking or using drugs will be asked to
leave. Sobriety is required.
No weapons are allowed: Knives over 3 inches must be checked in.
Violence is not tolerated.
Degrading ethnic, racist, sexist or homophobic remarks are not acceptable,
nor are physical punishment, verbal abuse and intimidation.
No men in the women's tents.
No women in the men's tents.
No open flames.
No loitering or disturbing neighbors.
No trespassing.
Attendance is required at one community meeting each week.
Source: SHARE/WHEEL Tent City4





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