Residents, church and community leaders, and homeless gathered for a town meeting on Monday night to discuss the establishment of a temporary tent city for homeless people near the city of Bothell, WA. Many residents expressed anger over the lack of communication from city officials in their decision to allow 100 campers to set up camp at a field near Bothell. Campers were set to move as early as this Thursday.
The tent-city organizers, SHARE/WHEEL, tried to assuage the angry sentiments by describing how the tent-city is fun and offering examples of success in previous such communities. Several homeless people from the tent-city and church leaders from the King County area spoke in favor of the tent-cities. While those opposed to the tent-cities stated concerns about safety, crime, and environment, advocates cited the contribution of these communities as a source of labor and in educating the public about homelessness. Some residents, including middle school students who had visited other tent cities near their schools, expressed their approval for the decision.
The site, called “Tent City 4,” would be the most recent of a series of temporary housing establishments. The first two tent cities were started in the 1990s. While they are no longer in existence, Tent City 3 is currently at Seattle’s Lake City Christian Church. Tent City 4 would only reside at the Bothell location for 90 days, before moving to another site.
Advocates of tent cities maintain the important role they play by providing temporary housing while long-term solutions (permanent shelters) are in development. In a single night survey conducted in 2001, over 7000 homeless were counted sleeping on the streets, and over 4000 were living in shelters or transitional housing. This most likely represents an underestimate of the total number of people who go without shelter each night.
King County services as well as local churches provide many resources to the homeless, including shelter, food banks, hot meals, transitional housing and outreach programs. However, the number of homeless in need of these resources far exceeds what is currently available. The development of tent cities contribute toward the development of permanent solutions. The responsibility for the maintenance and security of the tent cities lies on the residents of these communities, and provide a much safer alternative to the city’s homeless compared to sleeping on the streets.