Tent City 4 will return in January
November 24, 2009
By Warren Kagarise
Homeless encampment last visited Community Church in 2007
Tent City 4 will return in late January, when the homeless encampment sets up at Community Church of Issaquah.
Organizers announced a plan last week to welcome the encampment from Jan. 23 to April 23 on the Community Church property where the community settled in late 2007. The complex includes up to 100 homeless residents, and moves between Eastside churches. Residents leave the camp for work during the day. Applicants undergo sex offender and warrant checks.
Elizabeth Maupin, coordinator of the Issaquah Sammamish Interfaith Coalition, recalled how Issaquah welcomed the roving camp then — and predicted the community would do so again.
“We anticipate that even in these very difficult times, Tent City 4 will again find that Issaquah is a community of kind, generous people who want to reach out to those in dire straits,” she said.
Tent City 4 will come to Issaquah after a stint at a Bellevue church. Maupin said organizers would secure the necessary city permits in order to host the encampment at Community Church, 205 Mountain Park Blvd. S.W.
The church last hosted Tent City 4 from August to November 2007. When the city permit was issued then, staffers from most city departments had comments. Organizers were required to maintain the site and address security issues.The camp will again be required to adhere to local fire, health and safety codes. Community Church will be responsible for electricity, sanitation and water.
“Staff throughout the city government, from the permit department to the police department were all very helpful, not only as public servants, but as private citizens who collected donations to keep Tent City residents dry, warm and fed,” Maupin said.
Community Church representative Earle Jones joined Maupin to present the Tent City 4 plan to City Council members Nov. 16.
Jones noted how the city supported the church when Tent City 4 last arrived in Issaquah. Because the Community Church congregation is small — with about 50 members, most of whom are seniors — the church will seek help from other churches and civic groups.
Maupin said the interfaith coalition would raise money and organize volunteers to coordinate meals and donations for camp residents.
A committee made up of representatives from churches will organize the Tent City 4 return.
Maupin said the encampment “provides a safe place for people to sleep and keep their belongings as long as they are able to abide by the camp rules.”
When the encampment last set up in Issaquah, the fenced complex included a food service tent, a security tent, community areas and a shower housed in a trailer.
Maupin recalled how Tent City 4 residents volunteered at the Issaquah Salmon Hatchery and the Issaquah Food and Clothing Bank during the 2007 stop.
“Some found employment that eventually enabled them to move into housing,” she said.
Despite the smooth run the encampment experienced in Issaquah, Tent City 4 has produced opposition and legal battles in other cities. The first Tent City was established in Seattle in 1990.
A group of Mercer Island residents attempted to halt the encampment last summer, but a King County Superior Court judge intervened and allowed the camp to set up at a Mercer Island church. Woodinville officials filed a lawsuit against the encampment related to damages the city said occurred during a 2004 visit.
During the last legislative session, state lawmakers attempted to override local zoning rules and prohibit cities from intervening if a church wanted to host homeless people, but the bill fizzled.
The challenges contrast with the treatment Tent City 4 organizers and residents received in Issaquah. Maupin said business owners welcomed residents, and schools used the encampment as a learning tool for students.
“It was, in fact, such a successful event that I have often been asked by those who got to know the encampment how soon they would return,” Maupin said.
Warren Kagarise: 392-6434, ext. 234, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.