Tent City 2: June 11

Anitra Freeman (anitra@speakeasy.org)
Thu, 11 Jun 1998 17:43:36 -0700 (PDT)

Yesterday SHARE/WHEEL met with Deputy Mayor Tom Byers and other
representatives of the Mayor's office.  At the end Tom Byers said that the
Mayor's office would not officially permit the camp at this time, but would
"take no harsh measures" without telling us first -- that we would have a
chance to prove that we can run a safe, clean encampment for the folks
sleeping outdoors -- and that we (SHARE/WHEEL and the Mayor's office) would
go on working together for solutions to homelessness.

It was a friendly meeting, although nerve-wracking.  As I told one of my
friends afterword "I feel more relaxed when they are antagonistic.  When
they're friendly, I worry more."  But it was the most positive support for
our encampment short of an official sanction.

We set up the first tents with the company of every news station in town.
I know we need the media, we want the media, and I usually like the media,
but at one time I was hauling on a rope, directing the man who was driving
in the peg to secure the rope, and somehow a cameraman had managed to get
his camera right between us.  I *almost* said, "You hammer in the peg in
this guy's left foot." :)  But the interviews were friendly, most of the
camera crew were considerate (asking who was willing to be shown on film
and who wasn't), and we got positive coverage as far as I have heard.
Also, when two stations came back for 10'o'clock and 11'o'clock news live
shots, one let the guys watch the basketball game on his monitor.

We have been visited by the Seattle Police, the Fire Department, and the
Parks Department, but everyone so far is speaking in positive terms of
"making sure you're safe and have no problems out here."  We've agreed on
parameters with the Parks Department, like staying well clear of the
chemical treatment plant and not trespassing on the fenced-off reservoir
area.  We've agreed not to have any open flames on the site, and we're
getting fire extinguishers today.

We have plenty of food, snacks, coffee and water.  The first night's dinner
was provided by the Aloha Inn; we've also asked Boomtown Cafe if they can
bring meals, in the future.   Juan Bocanegra came by to visit, and brought
us some more water.  Another activist, from the Coalition to Stop Police
Brutality, brought banner material and volunteered to help out.

We had our first organizational meeting, agreeing on camp rules, setting up
a security schedule, and choosing camp coordinators.  The two of us who are
the current coordinators expect to be temporary.  No coordinators in SHARE
stay in office more than two weeks straight, anyway, and are usually
re-selected weekly, so that responsibility is shared among all and we don't
develop one small group that does everything.  I'm going to be a lot
happier when we get enough folks up there to have coordinators and security
monitors from the population the camp is meant to serve, the folks
currently sleeping outside.   (Wes is also going to be happy about this.
I slept up at the campground last night.)

Thanks for all your suggestions, folks, and I'm going to take them with me
to tonight's meeting.

The neighbors who have come by so far have been friendly and supportive.  I
was told that there have been calls to the SHARE office from the
neighborhood; I haven't heard details yet.  I am making a community flyer
this afternoon and we'll pass them out this evening and start doing some
outreach in the neighborhood.  I've already talked to one of the business
owners I know up there, and it was a friendly talk.  I used to live on
Beacon Hill; that neighborhood is mostly working-class, people who watch
out for each other and are concerned about safety on the streets for their
families.  I think it will be easier for them to see us as allies than it
was, for instance, for the neighborhood of Laurelhurst when we opened a
shelter up there.

We had about 16 people staying last night, mostly volunteers from other
SHARE shelter, with a few people who are currently "camping out" and a few
of us formerly-homeless volunteers.   We didn't expect to get folks from
the Jungle, and other people sleeping outside, until the cameras were gone
and things looked more settled.  We have people out on the streets doing
outreach today, and we expect by the history of previous encampments to
double each night.

I'll keep you posted.

Write On!
-- Anitra
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