[Hpn] seattletimes.com: Homeless set up camp near Seattle University campus

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Sun, 30 Jan 2005 05:41:57 -0800

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Homeless set up camp near Seattle University campus
Full story: http://archives.seattletimes.nwsource.com/cgi-bin/texis.cgi/web/vortex/display?slug=tentcity30m&date=20050130

By Tan Vinh
Seattle Times staff reporter


			STEVE RINGMAN / THE SEATTLE TIMES			Tent City 3 resident Jose Coyote helps set up temporary housing on Seattle University's tennis courts at East Cherry Street between 13th and 14th Avenues yesterday.																																																											E-mail this article																														Print this article																														Search archive																														Most read articles																														Most e-mailed articles																																																								

 One by one, the faces of the homeless appeared — the weather-beaten look of the men, the scars on the young women — each heading toward Seattle University, waiting to talk about their hardscrabble lives, the missed opportunities and the wrong turns.

 Pull up a chair, one longhaired man motioned to the volunteer students.

 The 80 homeless men and women gathered around the university's fenced tennis courts at East Cherry Street between 13th and 14th Avenues yesterday, where they were setting up camp for the next month. 

 The Jesuit school invited Tent City 3, a homeless community, to set up temporarily a few blocks from the main campus, giving students who pay up to $19,000 a year in tuition a chance to see how the other half lives.

"If you are going to understand homelessness fully, you would want to both read about the issue and also speak to the homeless men and women themselves," said Joe Orlando, a university employee and chair of the campus's Tent City 3 planning committee.

 In the coming weeks, the sociology and philosophy students will spend an afternoon with the homeless. The nursing and the law-school students will provide health and legal advice.

The staff and students will cook and serve dinner.

School administrators say this is the first time a university has hosted a homeless encampment. The university took up the homeless issue after the Rev. Stephen Sundborg, a Jesuit and the university president, urged faculty and staff in autumn 2003 to read "Radical Compassion," a book about a Jesuit who helped the homeless.

Some students and staff took up the cause after that.

 Many from Tent City 3, some of whom have been with the encampment for a year, were eager to show the younger generation that homeless people are not all crack addicts or ladies wearing five layers of clothes and pushing shopping carts. 

"It can be anybody," said 41-year old Lisa Kier, who joined Tent City 3 in March because she is unemployed. "It can happen to anyone."

Joseph Spiegner II, 53, of Tacoma, said he turned to the camp five months ago after his landscaping business went under. "You are just one paycheck away from being homeless," Spiegner said.

 "Sometimes, life throws you a curveball."

 Yesterday, students and staff helped the camp move from Riverton Park United Methodist Church in Tukwila.

The university staff will hold job-counseling and computer workshops, while law professors and their students will offer legal advice on bankruptcy, unemployment benefits and filing for disability benefits. Students also will organize drives to collect sleeping bags, flashlights and batteries.

 The tent cities are organized by SHARE/WHEEL, two nonprofits that aid the homeless. The first two, Tent City 1 and Tent City 2, no longer exist. 

Tent City 3 has moved 45 times since it started in March 2000. 

 Tent City 4, currently on the property of St. John Mary Vianney Catholic Church in Kirkland, has had a contentious relationship with some Eastside neighbors who complained they had little chance to voice their opinions before the arrival of the encampment.

Tent City 3, though, has had a more amicable relationship with its neighbors. The Squire Park Community Council, which represents the neighborhood near Seattle University, supports the school's project.

University administrators say they have received a few e-mails from concerned parents, but insist students don't have to worry about walking at night, especially since the university will increase campus patrol and add a campus security substation by the camp.

 "Give it a couple of weeks, [the public] will see that there will be no problem," said Nick Cullen, an MBA student who helped the homeless set up camp on the three tennis courts. "These are everyday people like you and me. We are just a bit more fortunate in that we have a home."

Tan Vinh: 206-515-5656 or tvinh@seattletimes.com


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