by Kirby Lindsay, posted 19 March 2012
Since January 21st, 2012, Seattle Pacific University (SPU) has hosted Tent City 3 – a temporary settlement of tents and portable structures housing up to 100 men and women. Seattle Housing and Resource Effort (SHARE/WHEEL) coordinates 15 indoor and the two tent city shelters, although both Tent City 3 and Tent City 4 operate as self-managed communities.
On March 24th, Tent City 3 relocates to St. Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral, on Capitol Hill, and anyone available to help with the move would be sincerely welcomed at Wallace Field at 8:30a on Saturday.
A Smooth, and Sedate, Stay
Located on the south side of the Fremont Bridge, SPU is a Christian university of approximately 4,100 students – with about 1,700 living on campus – according to Jeffrey Jordan, SPU Vice President for Student Life. Since Tent City 3 came to SPU through student initiative, he’s also become a contact at the school about the encampment.
Nearly two months in, and Jordan still had nothing but positive things to say about TC3 – and what the temporary residents contribute to campus life and the students’ experience. “It’s been a privilege to us to welcome our neighbors,” he said, “We have been blessed.”
Settled in one of the most visible locations on campus – the sports field – TC3 residents have had regular contact with students, the campus and our surrounding community, and Jordan said they’ve experienced almost no problems. “They’ve had four or five minor medical incidents,” he did acknowledge.
“The only issue that has come up,” Jordan related, involved an estranged relative of a TC3 resident. The uninvited visitor arrived and started shouting and threatening. TC3 security, campus security and the Seattle Police Department cooperated and removed the intruder without violence – and with clear instructions not to return. “I oversee student conduct at SPU,” Jordan admitted, “I wish that was the toughest thing I dealt with.”
Students & Residents Share
The effort by the students to have TC3 on campus started about two years ago. “We started out with two prongs,” Jordan explained about the proposal. The University wanted to offer space, and limited services (some meals, visits from nursing students, etc.,) and to bring the issue of homelessness onto the campus. “The third piece that kind of evolved,” Jordan observed, was bringing a bit of the college to TC3.
An interaction developed between students and TC3 residents, far beyond theory and observation. “It’s been quite fascinating,” Jordan said, “I’ve had a hard time keeping up with all our students have wanted to do.” Students have collaborated with TC3 residents on chess matches, a knitting club, a joint art project and supporting the SPU athletic events – a few free tickets given out at TC3 gave SPU another enthusiastic cheering section.
Contributions & Contributors
Yet, TC3 remains autonomous. The students may offer projects or plans to residents, but the TC3 community votes on each at its weekly meetings. “That’s how Tent City operates,” Jordan observed, “There has to be an approval process.” Although, he said, “they’ve hardly said ‘no’ to anything.”
The TC3 residents also helped. As part of bringing the issue to the students, SPU hosted nearly weekly forums on topics related to homelessness – health care, justice, theology, women’s issues, etc. – and invited expert speakers, including some from TC3. Each forum attracted between 30 and 80 people – until TC3 asked to host its own.
On March 7th, the public community forum on ‘What Homeless People Want’ overfilled Weter Lounge with approximately 150 people turning out. A variety of speakers, most of them homeless, stated quite clearly that what they want is adequate shelter space. The forum organizers, including representatives from SHARE and Real Change, also gave failing grades to the King County Committee To End Homelessness, and the efforts so far in its 10-year initiative.
‘They Don’t Monkey Around…’
At the forum, TC3 and Nickelsville residents spoke of the need for rules, and adherence, for the peaceful existence of these communities. “They have very strict guidelines,” Jordan also observed, “they will dismiss people,” who break the rules. The rules include no violence, no drugs, and sobriety. “They don’t monkey around with stuff,” Jordan said.
“I think they’ve been great with patrolling,” Jordan said. The community takes care of trash pick-up and security. “This is a group of people,” Jordan observed, with checks and balances that they’ve built in to their community. “They have schedules, and accountability. Everyone has to perform a certain number of hours of community service,” Jordan said, “Everyone is expected to be a part of the community.”
Participation is also demanded of all TC3 residents (except those at work or in school) on the move out/move in day. Expect to also see a lot of SPU students on-hand…and, hopefully, some volunteers from the Fremont community. At 8:30a on Saturday, March 24th, the tents will fall and the move will be on.
To help, show up at Wallace Field. If you can’t help physically, consider donating items needed for moves, and for the camp, including:
- duct tape, crowbars
- 33-gallon heavy-duty trash bags
- long lengths of twine, rope
- black Sharpie pens
- 2 ½ inch long nails, roofing nails
- 1 x 1 x 8 fencing
- coffee, tea, cream, sugar
- canned protein: tuna, ham, spam, chicken, chili, soup, peanut butter
- canned fruit and/or vegetables
- butter, margarine, salt/pepper, seasonings
While Fremont doesn’t have much space in which to host a tent city, SPU gave us all an opportunity to share in this experience. Any chance you can return the favor?
- Fremont Fair Takes To The Streets For Homeless
- by Kirby Lindsay, June 13, 2008 in the North Seattle Herald-Outlook
- Homeless Housing Plans Move Forward For CCS
- by Kirby Lindsay, November 21, 2011
- Affordable Housing Aspirations
- by Kirby Lindsay, October 3, 2008 in the North Seattle Herald-Outlook
©2012 Kirby Lindsay. This column is protected by intellectual property laws, including U.S. copyright laws. Reproduction, adaptation or distribution without permission is prohibited.