Tent City II in Seattle

Anitra Freeman (anitra@speakeasy.org)
Wed, 10 Jun 1998 09:54:13 -0700 (PDT)

I know it's been quiet on the Western Front.  I'm busy again.  Here's an

Locally, in Seattle WA, the City has been stepping up pressure to "sweep"
the encampments, especially the largest central (and most visible)
encampment, the "Jungle".  Recent murders among homeless women have been
capitalized on, not to increase real safety programs, but to justify
clearing the Jungle -- effectively making those who have to sleep outside
even more isolated and vulnerable by scattering them.

I'm preaching to the converted.  To cut to the chase, SHARE has been
talking with the Mayor's office for months about setting up a model
encampment, and the City has been making soothing noises and dragging its
feet.  They promised us that they would let us know before they actually
cleared the Jungle, and we promised them that we would talk to them before
we actually set up tents.  We wrote a letter last week saying that we have
waited on them long enough; our people will be in additional danger when
the Jungle is bulldozed, so as soon as the City clears the Jungle we will
set up our encampment, with or without the City's cooperation.

Today at 2PM SHARE/WHEEL meets with the Mayor's office, fulfilling our part
of the bargain to talk with them before we set up tents.  The tents and
supplies are assembled, a site is selected, and word has gone out for
participants to meet at 4th & James downtown to go out to the encampment
site and set up. (The site location won't be publically announced until we
are actually there.)

It is always possible that the Heavens will open, a great Light will
descend, and the Mayor's office will say, "Well, yeah, until we have enough
housing and shelter we *need* encampments, so here's 100 tents and sleeping
bags and official permits, and what else can we do to help?"  In which case
my next post will be all about the wonderful new cooperative encampment
program in Seattle.

Hopefully, that will be a post, eventually, somewhere down the road.   But
it is more likely to take a period of building pressure, with an open
encampment as visible proof that clean safe encampments are possible with
community support, and that the homeless community is doing more for itself
than the Mayor's office that has vowed to "have every homeless woman and
child off the streets by Christmas."

Last night I helped get tents, blankets, food and hygiene supplies ready to
go.  I'm heading back to the SHARE office now to help get the word out to
more people on the street.  It's raining today, but I expect that both the
Mayor's office and SHARE are going ahead.

I'll keep you posted.

Write On!
-- Anitra
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