[Hpn] seattletimes.com: Tent city to begin moving today

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Mon, 17 May 2004 03:08:58 -0700

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Tent city to begin moving today
Full story: http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2001930894_tentcity17m.html

By Nick Perry
Seattle Times Eastside bureau

 A Bothell pastor plans to pitch his tent alongside homeless people who will begin camping at his church this morning.

The Rev. Lawrence Minder made the pledge in front of 700 people attending an informational meeting at the St. Brendan Catholic Parish last night. 

He apologized for not giving the community more notice that Tent City 4 would be moving in.

 "I will sincerely do atonement for that when I move into a tent for 90 days," he said, drawing an ovation. He added that he needed to be invited into the homeless encampment first.

The camp, which has been located in Seattle, will pull up stakes at 9:30 a.m. today and split into two, with 30 people moving to the Bothell church and others moving to another location in Seattle. About 70 more will join the Bothell camp when it is properly established.

The move to the Eastside marks the climax of a two-week community debate. Some neighbors remain opposed to the camp while others were appeased by the change of venue Friday from King County land to the church property. The change also appears to have given the camp some constitutional protection. 

The new Bothell site will have five portable toilets, a wash basin and a trash container. It will be used for up to 90 days.

Whether the church will provide power and water was still under negotiation late yesterday. The alternative would be to set up generators and haul in water. 

Some neighbors remain concerned about safety, especially because the church's two acres are bordered on two sides by the Heritage Christian School, which has 550 students in preschool through ninth grade.

The school's Parent Teacher Association president, Michele Gregory, said at the meeting last night she was concerned the school hadn't had time to organize security and was worried about unscreened people arriving at the tent city, which checks for sex offenders.

"This is a new thing in this neighborhood," said Leo Rhodes, who plans to live at the new camp and is a board member of tent-city sponsor SHARE/WHEEL. "What we have to do is sit down and show them what this is all about. Everyone can come in and check it out. We are open 24/7."

Bothell officials were surprised by the sudden venue change, which places the camp inside the city limits. Officials met for an eight-hour special session that concluded at 1 a.m. yesterday when the City Council resolved to enter into an agreement with the church and SHARE/WHEEL.

City spokeswoman Joyce Goedeke said the council did not express an opinion on the merits of the camp but wanted to ensure the city was part of future discussions. "It's completely absurd that we were not alerted, invited or involved with this decision," Goedeke said.

King County had planned to host the community on fields next to the Brickyard Road Park & Ride near Bothell and had signed an agreement with SHARE/WHEEL. But County Executive Ron Sims announced Friday that he had reconsidered potential liabilities and that the tent city was accepting an offer from the church. Sims has agreed to try to find a future home for the tent city on county land.

The other homeless camp — Tent City 3 — will relocate today to Seattle's Cherry Hill Baptist Church, which has not attracted noticeable controversy. The tent city has been at Lake City Christian Church for the past six weeks.

A 2002 decision by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals appears to give both camps some legal standing. That court rejected arguments from the city of New York and then-Mayor Rudolph Giuliani that a church was operating an illegal shelter and creating a public nuisance by letting the homeless sleep on the steps.

The court found that the church was engaged in constitutionally protected religious activity. The court agreed with the church's argument that it is "commanded by Scripture to care for the least, the lost and the lonely of this world."

Nick Perry: 206-515-5639 or nperry@seattletimes.com


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