Light at the end of the tent

Anitra Freeman (
Sun, 12 Jul 1998 23:43:04 -0700 (PDT)

The North Beacon Hill Neighborhood Council held a special forum tonight on
the homeless encampment recently put up by SHARE/WHEEL and, basically,
whether the community should encourage further development of the
encampment idea, or encourage Mayor Schell to lock us all up, and throw
away the key so we won't come back to Beacon Hill.

We of SHARE/WHEEL went prepared to answer a number of hostile questions
that had been emailed to us ahead of time, questions like, "Isn't it true
that your strategy was to annoy the neighbors so much that they would
pester the Mayor to give you more shelters and get you out of our hair?"

Instead, most of the pointed questions were directed at the representative
of the Mayor's office from neighborhood residents who are incensed than the
Mayor's office is dragging its feet when a low-cost solution to the
dangerous encampments in the Jungle has been handed to the City by people
who are highly motivated to make it work.  Several residents extended open
invitations to SHARE/WHEEL to move back to the Reservoir.   Several took up
our arguments for us, saying that developing new shelters takes time, an
emergency exists with people outside and at risk tonight, and something
must be done *now*.  Even Roger Pence, the person who had been our most
vocal opponent -- because we violated process, which is the worst thing you
can do in Seattle  -- was arguing several points in our favor.  When
another Council member brought up a recent battle to *prevent* farmers from
housing migrant workers in tent cities, Roger pointed out that in this
case, it is the homeless themselves who are organizing their own Tent City,
not The Man.  (Yes, he said The Man.)

Tuesday night is the next regular meeting of the Community Council.  They
already have other urgent items on their agenda -- we will be mentioned,
but there won't be much time for discussion that night.  However, the
Community Council plans to schedule a special meeting within a week, or at
most two, to move forward on getting together a proposal from the Beacon
Hill community to the Myor and City Council, stating Beacon Hill's stand on
organized encampments, and proposing action.

Exactly what that stand, and that action, will be is still iffy.  There is
strong feeling for an encampment, but there is also strong feeling out
there against it, that may become more active as move toward a sanctioned
encampment becomes more organized.

But we definitely took a big jump forward tonight.  I'll keep you posted.

Anitra L. Freeman, for SHARE/WHEEL
Seattle Housing and Resource Effort
Women's Housing Equality and Enhancement League
Tent City 2