March 3, 2007
Sheesh: it’s been over five years since I’ve posted here!
- I am now one of the Seattle Raging Grannies
- WHEEL and SHARE homeless organizing groups are still going strong, but no longer have their own website. I plan to put up a basic information page for them. Nudge me about that, okay?
- Our area now has two SHARE/WHEEL Tent Cities: one in Seattle, one on the East Side. We’re in Wikipedia!
Homeless people have long resorted to seeking shelter in tent groups, but these communities are one of the first known to be organized by a sponsoring organization (a partnership between the Seattle Housing and Resource Effort and Women’s Housing Equality and Enhancement League, often referred to by the combined acronym SHARE/WHEEL), and, even more notably, are one of the first in a major U.S. city to be largely accepted by local governments. Contrary to some stereotypes regarding the homeless, many residents of Tent City are employed, mostly in temporary or day labor jobs, but have insufficient income to obtain more permanent housing.
The original Tent City and Tent City 2, both created in the late 1990s, were opposed by the City of Seattle, which claimed they were illegal. After being tolerated for some time, they were eventually forced to shut down. In March of 2002, as a result of a legal battle centered in large part around the constitutionally protected right of churches to serve the poor, city attorney Tom Carr and SHARE/WHEEL attorney Ted Hunter signed a court ordered consent decree with SHARE, allowing Tent City only on private land (by invitation) and setting standards for its operation.
Based on the consent decree Tent City 3 was created and rotates around the Metro Seattle Core. Tent City 4 was created in May of 2004 as an attempt to expand beyond the Seattle city limits. Originally slated be be housed on public land owned by King County, the encampment wound up being hosted by churches instead due to community protest. Like Tent City 3 in Seattle, Tent City 4 moves from one host to another every 60-90 days.
Tent City rules do not allow drug or alcohol use, and evicts anyone caught stealing or committing other crimes within the camp. Participant stays for Tent City 3 have been around 3 weeks on average while Tent City 4 has had stays as long as 100 days.
Tent City 4 is a homeless encampment of up to 100 people operated by the homeless residents and sponsored by 501(c)(3) organizations Seattle Housing and Resources Effort (SHARE) and Women’s Housing Equality and Enhancement League (WHEEL). The camp was created in May 2004 and limits itself to places of worship in eastern King County outside of Seattle. Minors are not allowed in Tent City 4, although there is a provision for emergency situations. Residents may use their own tents or community tents that are segregated by gender. Dumpsters, portable toilets, and a shower, paid for by SHARE, are provided to address sanitation concerns. In order to control access to the encampment, there is only one entry/exit to the camp that is guarded at all times.
Unlike its sister tent city in Seattle, which moves around Seattle with little to no resistance, Tent City 4′s moves are often met with stiff resistance from some residents of the communities they move in to. In response to Tent City 4′s movement and the resistance of its opponents, King County and many of the cities have established land use codes in an attempt to balance the desire of faith-based organizations to host the camp and the concerns of some of its neighbors over health and safety.
- Real Change is still going strong, and has a new video. Most recent campaign: Stop loss of low-income housing to condo conversion.
- Wes is still going strong, and has three new blogs:
Well, that’s quite enough for you to have to get through in one sitting. Maybe I won’t take so long before my next post. I have other neglected blogs to get to before I loop back here again, however: Participate.net and Democracy.org, and the set of blogs in my ambitiously dreamt, slow building web redesign.