Seattle, WA- Following two weeks of controversy, the residents of Tent city 4 moved into their new location in Bothell yesterday, amid many welcoming community members.
Two weeks ago, Bothell residents angrily protested when city officials announced their decision to allow the establishment of the tent city (a temporary housing establishment for homeless people) on fields just outside of Bothell. Residents cited safety, health, and environment among their main concerns.
SHARE/WHEEL, the tent city organizers, held a town meeting to discuss the main issues of conflict, in hopes to alleviate the fears and concerns surrounding of the opponents. Discussions in the following weeks led organizers to accept an offer by the St. Brendan Catholic Parish to establish the camp on its grounds. While some community residents are still against to the tent city, the change in location has appeased many of the previous opponents.
The establishment of the tent city on church grounds affords it some legal protection. In 2002, the city of New York charged a church with running an illegal shelter for homeless people. The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, however, ruled in favor of the church, stating that the shelter was a “constitutionally protected religious activity” in keeping with the churches responsibility “by Scripture to care for the least, the lost, and the lonely of this world.”
One woman who had protested against the tent city because of the inadequacy of the original location was pleased with the new site. She stated that the proximity to the church would allow the homeless residents to feel more a part of the community. A Bothell pastor even said he will pitch his tent and live with the homeless residents there.
A major problem for homeless people is the felling of isolation from society. The new location on church grounds offers extra safety as well as a sense of community to the tent city residents. The organizers and residents hope that the tent city will raise awareness among community members of the life of homeless people and remove some of the misconceptions people have about homelessness.
The tent city moved in yesterday with the aid of many community members, including religious leaders, church volunteers, students from a nearby school who are studying homelessness, and other Bothell residents. Donations ranging from funds to supplies such as toiletries, blankets, and sleeping bags, were collected for the tent city residents.