Wednesday, July 26, 2017

On a Mission

By Christy Houghton 
Christopher Carter
On a chilly Sunday morning last spring, I sat down with Christopher Carter, one of the residents at Camp United We Stand (CUWS). After graciously agreeing to the interview, he led me to the TV Tent so he could warm his hands by the heater while we talked.
Christopher has been an elected leader at the homeless camp, and speaks with sincerity and conviction. One of the first things I learn about him is that he’s on a personal mission.

“God Delivered Me from a Terrible Stutter” 

Christopher said he’d had a bad stutter for most of life. He worked in construction as a general contractor, building houses in Oklahoma. In 2013, a traveling evangelist sent him a text, telling him to read Jeremiah 33:3. At this point, Christopher paused, and I looked at him questioningly. He just repeated, “Jeremiah 33:3.” He went home and read the whole chapter.
When Christopher went to share what he'd read with his friend Theresa, she interrupted him, saying, "Christopher, you don't stutter no more." From that time on, Christopher says, “God delivered me from a terrible stutter, and has given me a beautiful voice.” It made his mother cry, when he first spoke to her without that stutter.
I didn’t learn what was in that Bible verse until I got home and looked it up. “Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.” – Jeremiah 33:3

He Needed to Go to Tent City 3 

In 2015 Christopher helped a friend of his move from Oklahoma to Arlington, Washington. From there, he felt called to go to Santa Monica, California. The police picked him up on the side of the Interstate, telling him that he couldn't walk down it. You can do that in some other states, but not in Washington. In Downtown Seattle, where the police dropped him off, Christopher had planned on getting a couple day’s work for a bus ticket to Santa Monica.
Someone he’d recently met at the Bread of Life Mission downtown interrupted a conversation with someone else not just once, but three separate times, to tell Christopher that he needed to go to Tent City 3. So, that’s what he did. "Years ago, I told the Father, if You need to use me or move me, give it to me in threes or sevens." Camp United We Stand was founded by Christopher and some others who were at Tent City 3.

“This is where God wants me.” 

Christopher would prefer living in permanent housing, but he says, "This is where God wants me." Drawing on his construction background, he recently designed a new type of shelter made from thick Styrofoam insulation material. These shelters, called BOBs (Built On Blessings), are easy to build, relatively inexpensive, and collapsible for moving. Once tarped, they’re warmer and drier than a tent.
Christopher has also been working on building a "bath house”, a foam structure with a real bath and shower using a donated tub. “The foam house is just a rest stop on my journey." Christopher has a bigger vision.

“Homelessness isn’t something that gets fixed, it needs to be healed.” 

Christopher says he never felt the need of the homeless while he was living in a house. He never felt it until he came here. “Homelessness isn't something that gets fixed, it needs to be healed. Permanent housing can help with that. If every church has housing structures, people who need a place to live can come to their local church instead of going downtown where the drugs are.” Christopher has a personal mission to talk with each church in the area, asking them to reserve part of their property for people in their community who become homeless. His vision is that each church, according to its size would have portable but permanent housing.
In the future, Christopher plans to keep going wherever he's led, to wherever he’s needed, to wherever his mission points.

NOTE: Since Christy’s interview with Christopher, he has left Camp United We Stand. Several of his BOBs, however, are still standing at the camp. If you are interested in seeing this innovative new structure, feel free to stop by to visit. You can find the camp’s current location at

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Speaking Up

By Christy Houghton

I signed up for Homeless Advocacy 101, a workshop sponsored by the Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness (SKCCH), to learn something new about helping the homeless. Geared towards ordinary people like me, who aren’t professional lobbyists and don’t remember much about American Government lessons from high school social studies, this free workshop was informative, interesting, entertaining – and sobering. On any given night in the Seattle area, 10,000 people are homeless, with 4,500 people still outside after shelters close. There is clearly a need for solutions.

Kate Baber, who works for the Washington Low-Income Housing Alliance, kicked off the workshop by reviewing some current legislative priorities which could benefit the homeless. But how to get our legislators to listen to our concerns about our neighbors who are without shelter?

That was the focus of Nancy Amidei’s talk. Nancy has influenced public policy for years in both Washigntons before retiring from teaching civics and advocacy at the University of Washington. She gave a short review of how our elected representatives work for us at the state and federal levels and the way that bills are turned into laws.

Nancy’s definition of advocacy is, “Speaking up!” Our government representatives have staff for facts. They need us for personal stories. Stories that are brief and compelling will help influence their colleagues on our behalf. One easy way to speak up is to call the Legislative Hotline at 1-800-562-6000. It’s a free call to a helpful person who will get your message to the right people. Nancy also advises signing up with a good advocacy group that's tracking the issues you care about and will inform its members about opportunities to act.

Alison Eisinger, SKCCH’s Executive Director, facilitated the workshop. Her goal, she told us, was to have us leave with tools, knowledge, and a sense of empowerment. I left with all of that, plus the conviction that I can make a difference by speaking up to share stories about the homeless with my elected representatives.


Thursday, June 8, 2017

Room to Grow

By Christy Houghton
Additional Property for Camp Second Chance

There were only 14 residents at Camp Second Chance before the city added another parcel of land in March, making room to grow. The site can now house up to 70 people in 50 tents or tiny houses. New residents have come from other camps, or from homeless 'sweeps', where people and their things are removed from an unsanctioned location.
By April first, the camp had already doubled in size.

A Model Camp

Camp Second Chance allows adults only, due to the relatively remote industrial area where schools and daycares aren’t very close. Everyone is expected to follow the camp's rules, including a prohibition on having alcohol or drugs in camp. If a rule gets broken once, though, there’s compassion. That person is reminded of the rules and given a second chance to stay. Sometimes, the Second Chance Community isn’t a good fit for someone in their current life situation. There's a large extra tent with three cots, so people can spend the night as guests, even if they decide not to join the community. Camp Second Chance even hires an Uber ride, so the guest has a way to get to a different place the next morning.

Eric Davis, the camp’s Program Director, founded this nonprofit transitional housing community with fifteen others. Davis shared the planned improvements and his vision for Camp Second Chance. “We’ll have electricity in April. Shortly after that, running water will be available.” A mobile shower service arrives every Tuesday now, and will soon come on Saturdays, too. Davis would like to see tiny portable houses replace the tents. Eventually, they’ll build raised garden beds. After a visit, the mayor had said that this is a model camp, and Davis agrees. It’s not all about the services, though.

Run Like a Family

“This camp is run like a family,” claims Davis. Each camper has a voice in making decisions that impact the camp, like how to spend donated money and when to purchase new items. All decisions are put to a vote, and the majority vote wins. Davis feels strongly that everyone needs to be treated with respect, with their opinion heard and valued. And, just like in a family, everyone is expected to help out with the camp's chores. Davis’ philosophy is that "we use you for what you're good at." People are assigned to roles and tasks for the camp, based on what they can do. Responsibilities include security, kitchen coordinators, and maintenance duties. When people arrive with very few personal things, the camp purchases a tent and tarp for the new residents. Camp Second Chance is a place to feel safe, where people can leave their belongings while working or looking for a job. Residents know that their things will be there with their ‘family community’ when they return, even as the family grows this year.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

What’s New with GSC?

The Denture Program is back!

In partnership with Husky Health Bridge (HHB), the Greater Seattle Cares’ Denture program is back in the business of changing lives! People who are missing teeth are missing out on a lot: without a confident smile it’s hard to find a job or housing and people adversely judge you. Through GSC’s denture program, Dental Case Managers are able to help camp residents in need of dentures get the care they need.
Can we count on YOU to make a donation – of any size – to help fund this vital program?
  • $300 buys one tooth
  • $525 buys an upper or lower denture
  • $1150 provides an entire set of teeth
  • And any amount helps!
To donate please visit the GSC dental program’s Go Fund Me campaign.

Camp Updates

Tent City 3 is still at the Skyway site on the southeast corner of 129th & Martin Luther King Jr. Way. Because this site is a vacant lot without access to power or running water, the camp needs help with paying for gasoline for their generator. If you stop by, you can fill one or more of their cans at the gas station across the street. Call the camp to discuss at 206-399-0412.
The camp is also in need of batteries of all sizes: AAA, AA, D and C.
TC3 is moving to St. Joseph’s Catholic Church on Capitol Hill on June 24th, where it will be for the summer months. However, the residents are actively seeking a host for a location after that stay and beyond. The site could be a church or a commercial site waiting for building permits. If you know of any potential host sites, please call SHARE 206/448-7889.

Camp United We Stand moved this month to Haller Lake United Methodist Church at 13055 1st Ave NE in north Seattle. The camp will be at this site until mid-August, when it will move to Richmond Beach Congregational Church of Christ in Shoreline. The camp is almost full, but may accept a few more residents to reach its maximum of 35.

Camp Unity Eastside is currently at the Northshore United Church of Christ in Woodinville at 18900 168th Ave. NE. The camp is down to 16 residents and is actively accepting new intakes.

Camp Second Chance is now fully supported by the City of Seattle through their fiscal agent, Patacara. They finally have electricity and water, and the camp is expanding to grow rapidly.

Program Updates

Our Magnificent Glean Team continues to provide food, toiletries, OTC medications and other sundries to these camps, as well as to a number of different shelters and organizations that help low-income neighbors meet basic needs. Recent donations include six bikes and outdoor furniture that we took to Ryan’s House for Youth, a shelter for homeless teens on Whidbey Island.

Through our gleaning connections, the newest Chipotle Mexican Grill on Lake City Way recently donated their pre-opening prepared food to us. We routed these burritos, bowls, chips, salsa and leftover ingredients to the various camps, to Mary’s Place in Shoreline, and to the feeding ministry at St. Dunstans’s Episcopal Church. Last week’s donation helped generate more than 1,000 meals! Thank you, Chipotle!

If you would like more detail on any of these topics please contact us at

Thank you all for what you do to help those experiencing homelessness. 

Thursday, May 4, 2017

The Denture Program is Back!

Last week you heard from Greater Seattle Cares blogger Christie Houghton about the wonderful new partnership between GSC, Medical Teams International, and the Husky Health Bridge: together we provide dental care to residents of Tent City 3. (And last Saturday the team ran a successful clinic at Camp Second Chance as well.)

But what about those camp residents who can’t take advantage of this incredible service because they have no teeth?

Some of you may remember that in 2012 Greater Seattle Cares initiated a program to help residents of Tent City 3 get dentures. It was a huge success! With our donors’ generous help, 26 camp residents received full or partial dentures - and many of them were able to get work and move back into permanent housing!

With the advent of the Affordable Care Act, GSC suspended the program, since expanded health coverage gave more residents of homeless camps access to dental care and dentures – or so we thought. For the past several years, GSC has been referring folks for dentures, believing that Medicaid would pay. Only recently did we discover, to our dismay, that this is not always the case.

So, the Denture Program is back!

Why dentures? 

What does it mean to not have teeth? It means you can’t eat the meals that generous supporters provide to the encampment. You can eat only things that are very soft. You tend not to smile very much so your lack of teeth doesn’t show. People who meet you make automatic negative judgments. And if you’re living with chronic infections from broken teeth, that can even become life threatening.

Well-fitted dentures change all that and can be literally life-changing. Here are a couple of alumni from our 2012 program, Trudi and Shawn, before and after getting their dentures. Look at those smiles!

Trudi before
Trudi after

Trudi hadn’t had any upper teeth since someone stole her dentures while she was living in a shelter. After getting her new dentures, Trudi found she could eat things she hadn’t tasted in years. Best of all, when Trudi’s daughter got married that summer, Trudi was able to meet her daughter’s in-laws with confidence.

Shawn before
Shawn after

After getting his dentures, Shawn told us, “Last year I was out with some friends and someone made a comment about my bad teeth. It made me feel really bad. I like to smile. Now I can without feeling ashamed. Having the dentures gives a great uplifting feeling. I am able to chew my food, and I am regaining my health with better nutrition. I was one of the first to sign up – I was so excited I actually cried. Bless the people who donated money to make this happen for me.”

But we need your help. 

Clearly, this is an opportunity for us to make a significant difference in the life of a person who is experiencing homelessness – a difference that can lead to improved health, increased self-esteem, and the hope of moving back into the mainstream. GSC has developed a good working relationship with a first-class dentist and a denturist in Seattle who are helping us out with lowered prices. Now we just need the funds. Can you lend a hand?
  • $300 buys one tooth
  • $525 buys an upper or lower denture
  • $1150 provides an entire set of teeth
  • And any amount helps! 

Donating is easy! 

GSC has started a GoFundMe campaign with the goal of raising $10,000 for this program. Click here to add your donation to the effort. And please share this blog post with your friends so we can get our camp residents smiling again!

Springtime is a time of hope. Let’s put some hope into the hearts of these homeless camp residents – and some teeth in their mouths!

Thank you. And God bless you.
The Greater Seattle Cares Board

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Dental Care Partners

By Christy Houghton

Who likes to go to the dentist? Nobody I know! But Greater Seattle Cares (GSC) and Medical Teams International (MTI) have a new partner that is helping make that visit to the dentist a little easier for residents of Tent City 3 and other formal homeless encampments.

It’s 8:00 a.m. on March 22nd, and the door of the UW Fisheries Science Building opens, admitting a volunteer who escorts a man walking with a cane. A black Lab with a graying muzzle ambles over for a polite sniff. In the middle of the great hall, a small fluffy white Maltese sits near three reclining dental chairs. Open-mouthed patients lie in the chairs, each tended by a small team of dental students with a faculty advisor. Behind them, a long table is laid out with dental supplies, while on the other side a separate room has been designated for X-rays. Down the hall, other dental students are checking patients in, helping them fill out paperwork, or sitting to chat with them while they wait to be seen. Outside, the big red MTI Mobile Dental Van is parked next to Tent City 3, accommodating two more third-year dental students and another of the dental school’s faculty. This is Husky Health Bridge at work.

The little white dog is mine,” says Brandon Walker, a former U.S. Marine turned dental student. “Earlier this morning, Teddy sat on a patient’s lap during her whole procedure.” Brandon is the “Media and PR guy” for Husky Health Bridge, a nonprofit formed last October by a group of first-year UW dental students who wanted to extend dental services to underserved groups in the area. He and a faculty advisor even brought their dogs today to help ensure the best possible dental experience for people who may be pretty scared after not having seen a dentist in a while.

This is the second time that Husky Health Bridge, MTI and GSC have organized a dental clinic for Tent City 3 while it has been hosted at the UW. Justin, a camp resident, had a molar extracted by this same group just one month earlier. “They were very nice. I was nervous because they were students, but they were very knowledgeable,” he says. Today, they’ve given him fluoride toothpaste and a soft brush to help with the sensitivity in his mouth while the area around the extraction heals.

Greater Seattle Cares has collaborated with MTI for several years, bringing free dental care to the residents of Tent City 3. MTI provides the mobile dental van, which has two dental chairs, onsite x-rays, and some advanced dental equipment. Usually, MTI also finds volunteer dentists to serve on the van. Greater Seattle Cares serves as liaison with the camp and assures a constant flow of patients through the clinic. And this year, Husky Health Bridge (HHB) joined the partnership, bringing enough dental equipment and volunteers to treat another three people at a time. Even more importantly, HHB has committed to “adopting” Tent City 3, providing volunteers to bring the MTI dental van to the camp, wherever it is, on a monthly basis.

For today, however, this dental services partnership is closing up shop. HHB volunteers pack up the mobile dental chairs, the dental equipment, the generator and the extra supplies. The MTI Clinic Manager ties down everything in the Mobile Dental Van with bungee cords and maneuvers the huge red vehicle carefully out of the parking lot, heading back to the MTI headquarters in Redmond. The GSC Dental Program Coordinator secures all the dental charts for storage in a locked filing cabinet in her garage. “All together, the Husky Health Bridge/MTI/GSC team saw 20 patients today, many with complex dental problems,” she reports. “Though the clinic was supposed to close at 2 PM, the volunteers have all stayed until well after 5 PM in order to make sure that every patient could be seen. This kind of commitment really sends a message to people living in homelessness that they are important, that they matter.”

And that can make coming to the dentist not so scary after all.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

What’s New with GSC?

Innovations, Dental Clinics, and a Blog. 

Residents at Camp United We Stand are working on a new type of shelter made from Styrofoam insulation material. These shelters, called BOBs (Built On Blessings), are easy to build, relatively inexpensive, and collapsible for moving. Once tarped, they are warmer and drier than a tent, with room to stand up and with a lockable door. The camp is experimenting with these to see if they might replace tents. If you have a chance, stop by camp and ask to see one.

Oh, by the way, CUWS is moving to Haller Lake United Methodist Church on May 13th. They would really appreciate any help with the move, whether it’s a pick-up truck, a delivery of food and water, or strong arms to help load and unload. Put it on your calendar!

Camp Second Chance is now officially sponsored by the City of Seattle, and is growing rapidly. The City has moved the fence back and laid down gravel to give the camp more room to grow. They will soon be hooking up electricity and providing a more stable source of water. Pretty good for the little camp that could!

Tent City 3 has moved to private land at the corner of S 129th St. and Martin Luther King Way. We half-jokingly call this site “Valley Forge,” as there is no water or electricity but lots of mud. Efforts to get some wood chips donated have stalled out. With your financial support, however, we have been able to provide gasoline for the camp generator and water, at least to some degree, as well as the usual food, clothing and toiletry donations.
What this camp really needs is a new host! Think your church might be interested? If so, contact SHARE at There’s no commitment in just learning what’s involved in hosting. You can also read about what a wonderfully unifying experience this can be on our website.
Husky Health Bridge, the student-run UW Dental School non-profit that organized two dental clinics for the camp while it was at UW, has decided to adopt the Tent City 3! They have a clinic planned next at Camp Second Chance on April 29th with Medical Teams International and then will continue to provide services on a monthly basis to Tent City 3 after that.

Camp Unity Eastside is currently at St. Jude’s Catholic Church in Redmond. The camp is pretty small right now – just 16 residents – but St. Jude’s is also supporting a “safe parking” program right next door. This program gives people who are living out of their cars a legal place to park them. Never heard of this program? Here’s a really helpful article that explains it.

In other news, Greater Seattle Cares has a new blogger! Christy Houghton is a volunteer in Edmonds who visits the camps every couple of weeks and writes about her experiences. Follow her on our website or on our Facebook page.

Questions? Concerns? Like to ask a question, volunteer, or make a donation? Feel free to check out our website or contact us at

Thank you all for your support and especially your big hearts and generous spirits in doing what you can to help those experiencing homelessness :) 

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Ordinary people helping others

Recently Greater Seattle Cares volunteer David Baum did a radio interview with Mind over Matters of KEXP 90.3 FM.

David is the founder of his own non-profit called Rumblecrash, and in this article he talks about his work with homeless communities in Seattle.

Take a listen!


Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Tent City 3 – Immediate Needs

Dear friends of Tent City 3,
Tent City 3 moved last weekend to private land on the southeast corner of S 129th St. and Martin Luther King Way, an easy jump off of I-5. Many residents abandoned the camp when it moved, and 18 stalwart souls moved everything for a camp that usually serves 100. The current site is very muddy, with no electricity, no water and no church host. Since moving, the camp has grown back up to 30, with several families with small children. Until the camp moves to St. Joseph’s in June, there will be an on-going need for the following:
  • Refills for the propane tanks, so they can use their gas grill to cook. 
  • Gasoline cards, so they can run a generator for electricity. 
 Please search your hearts and see if you could provide some support for this camp. Without a church host, with no water and no electricity, this camp really needs help right now. Here’s what you can do:
  • Pick up empty propane tanks, fill and return them to camp. 
  • Pick up empty gas cans, fill and return them to camp. (There is a Shell station on 129th just to the west of the camp.) 
  • Drop off some gas cards at camp – something they can use at the Shell station. 
  • Make a donation to Greater Seattle Cares earmarked for Tent City 3, so that we can meet these needs. 

Many thanks for anything you can do to help!
Please contact the camp directly to see if this may have changed. Also, please see the general needs list for ongoing needs.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Move Day

 By Christy Houghton 

8:00 AM
"Camp United We Stand, it's 8 AM on Move Day!", someone shouts from the middle of the homeless encampment. "Camp United We Stand, it's 8 AM on Move Day!" Time for people to get up and start packing. Pastor Rick, who runs a late-night shelter referral system in Seattle called Operation Nightwatch, brings much appreciated hot coffee and donuts. Saturday morning, February 18th, begins chilly and damp.

“We All Do What We Can to Help.” 

Packing up
"It's good to be part of the Camp UWS community”, a camper says, “We all do what we can to help." The camp’s leaders expect people to help with whatever is needed during the move. With a shy smile, a young woman adds, "It's my first move and I'm excited for it. Everyone has each other's backs, for the most part.” One moving truck waits to be loaded, with another expected at 10 AM. Volunteers will arrive at noon to help. As others get out of their tents and go looking for coffee, it starts to rain.
Tom, who worked in construction for 25 years, had been elected Advance Camp Master for the move. He’ll coordinate setup at the new location. Another camp resident has been elected to coordinate the packing up at the old site. Earlier in the week, Tom had worked with a camp resident who is an electrician to design the new site’s layout and tent spots. There are fire codes and city regulations to be met. Tom explains that the community tents will go up first, and electricity hooked up. Then a fence will be built around the camp, except where the thick sticker bushes on one side provide a natural protection. Carport structure flooring and raised walkways for the community tents need to be rebuilt, along with the pallet tent floors for the campers.

A Grueling Day 

For most of the 35 camp residents, it’s a grueling day that starts in the morning and will end long after dark. Before the move, supplies were packed up from the community areas: kitchen, donations, office, and TV room. After the move, there’s unpacking and setup to be done. Moving the camp to a new location takes a full week of effort.

11:30 AM 

An old rock song plays on a radio, and there’s a lot of movement in the encampment. People are taking apart the plywood flooring from the community tents, or loading personal belongings and tents into the trucks.
Assembling a community tent
At the new site, Shoreline Free Methodist Church, the steady drizzle has turned to a steady rain. Volunteers unload kitchen supplies from the trunk of a car. A few people are working on setting up the carport structures which house the kitchen, the donations, and the security desk. There's only clear packing tape in the supplies box, so Tom asks someone to call the old camp to get the duct tape they need to secure the fitted pipes for the carport frames.

4:00 PM 

At the old site, the shy woman looks tired, but says with a ready smile, "It's going well. People are helping each other." A man carrying a heavy-looking bundle nods his head in agreement. Their clothing is wet and muddy.
At the new site, there’s a small table with some dishes and food. Some wonderful neighbor had dropped off spaghetti and garlic bread. There are more people working on setup, and the music plays here now. A long extension cord runs across this side of the church’s parking lot, and pallets are stacked in piles. People keep moving, doing whatever is needed to help. It's still raining.

Up Past Midnight 

Early on Sunday, Christopher, one of the camp’s elected leaders, is the first person back to the old site. It’s mostly bare, but there's a small structure that will be hauled with a trailer, and a few tarp-covered piles left to move. He says everyone cleared out of here at 10:30 last night. They were all up past midnight, pitching their own tents after reassembling the pallet floors. Warming up by the propane heater in one of the community tents kept Christopher going. He’s gotten about three and half hours of sleep.

“This Really Sucks.” 

The temporary homeless camps get a 90-day permit, with an extension if needed. Every three months or so, the whole camp must move.
Morning after Move Day at the new site
Tom and Linda were with Tent City 3 for six years, and CUWS for two years. This is their 30th move. Christopher is another move veteran. He believes the worst part of moving is that people have to stop their daily activities to participate in Move Day. Tanya missed a class. Others miss work, or scheduled time with their children. It takes the residents a week or two after the move to get familiar with the new area and bus routes. An experienced resident sums it up, "This really sucks. We need a spot where we don't have to move every three months."

More Work to Do 

Sunday morning at the new site, Tom carries a partial pallet under each arm, looking exhausted. He hadn't set up his own tent or slept, because people needed help all night. Three campers chose not to participate in the move. Since they didn’t help the camp move, they'll be 'site barred' according to the community’s rules: not welcome to stay for the next three months. For everyone else, there’s still more work to do. A fence to be put up and community tents to be organized.
The next Move Day is May 13th.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

First Visit to a Homeless Camp

 By Christy Houghton 

I’m a new writer for Greater Seattle Cares (GSC). This is my first article. Before volunteering with GSC, my experience with the homeless came from the TV news, and seeing (and smelling) drunk and dirty people begging on the streets near Pike Place Market or Pioneer Square in Seattle. So, when I made my first visit to Camp United We Stand, an organized, self-managed transitional encampment in Shoreline, I was in for some surprises.

Safer Than My Own Neighborhood 
I live in the suburbs, where a woman can walk alone at night - alert, but unafraid. My neighborhood, though, doesn't have anywhere near the level of security that I found at Camp United We Stand. Only one entrance to the small homeless encampment; and before going in further, a camp resident politely insisted that I write the time, my name, and purpose for the visit in their guest notebook. He also warned me that no alcohol or drugs are permitted in the camp.

Wary but Welcoming 
Before my visit, I told myself that I had no business at a homeless camp, and the people there would resent my presence. I’d thought that homeless people preferred to be invisible in our society, and steeled myself for hostility or at least indifference. Then I met Christopher, Tom, Monty, and Isaac. They welcomed me to the camp with kindness, and willingly posed for pictures after hearing that I was a new writer for GSC. I learned that just like everyone else, they want to be seen and heard and respected.
Isaac and Bowser, outside of Camp United We Stand
Cleaner Than You'd Think 
Everyone I met appeared as clean as people without a shower on premises could possibly be expected to look. The camp was well-maintained, orderly, and spotless. If I hadn’t known it was a homeless camp, I might’ve asked about the campground rates.

Some Problems are Small Enough to Fix 
Christopher was one of the three resident ECs (elected Executive Council member) that week, and in charge. When he showed me the Donation Tent, Christopher pointed out that they were short on men’s pants, sizes 30-39. They also needed a stapler before Move Day. I have an extra stapler at home. I had thought that if you help the homeless, you enable the homeless problem to continue. Greater Seattle Cares helped me see that people must have their basic needs of food, clothing, shelter, and safety met before they can even think about next steps to improve their lives.

Even Little Things Make a Difference 
Before volunteering as a writer for GSC, I worried that it would make me feel bad to know more about the homeless problem because it’s so big that I couldn’t make a difference. I learned that even little things make a difference. Listening to someone, and speaking with respect and warmth. Writing about real people in our community, who want to be seen and heard. I can do these things.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Special request for Camp Unity Eastside

02/19/17: Camp Unity Eastside needs the following. 

If you can provide any of these items, please drop them off at Camp Unity Eastside, St. Jude Parish, or call Greater Seattle Cares to arrange a pick-up.
  • Financial donations to help fund ongoing expenses such as for insurance, garbage, and basic maintenance and operations of the camp vehicle. Donations are tax deductible. If you can help, please mail your donation to Camp Unity Eastside, PO Box 342, Redmond, WA 98073.
  • A thermos coffee carafe
  • powder creamer
  • sugar
  • sugar free hot chocolate
  • bottled water
  • aspirin
  • hand sanitizer
  • Tums
  • Pepto Bismol
  • grocery cards
  • ORCA cards
  • 4 large and 1 extra large knee braces
  • 1 gallon Ziploc bags
  • duct tape
  • 30 gallon trash can size black trash bags or contractor bags
  • paper towels
  • needle & sewing kit
  • AAA and 6V batteries
  • HP 63 Black Printer ink
  • 11” zip ties
  • shower curtain and rings
  • shower cleaner
  • 3 cots for sleeping.

Residents seeking work: While some of the residents are currently employed, others are not and are actively seeking employment. Among the skills these men and women have are experience with data entry, call center staffing, administrative skills in a corporate setting, organization, event planning and coordination, and hauling and delivery services.  
Please consider these campers if you have a need for any of these services
The best way to follow up is to call Camp Unity at 425-652-9170 and talk with the camper who is staffing the front desk at that time. They can connect you with campers who are seeking employment.

Monday, February 6, 2017

We sent an email to Shoreline City Council

Shoreline City Council was considering passing an ordinance that would have made hosting an encampment nearly impossible for most churches in Shoreline.

GSC's President, Cindy Roat, wrote an email letter on behalf of the Board of GSC.

Here's what it said:
Dear members of the Shoreline City Council,

This email is a request to the City Council to consider alternative language to the proposed amendments to the Shoreline zoning code that will affect transitional encampments in the city. These proposed amendments do not reflect the spirit of the directive that the City Council gave to the Planning Council, nor do they reflect the overall spirit of support that Shoreline residents have demonstrated for homeless populations over the past eight years.

I am writing as President of Greater Seattle Cares, a small non-profit organization serving four transitional encampments in the Puget Sound area. I myself am a Shoreline resident since 2003, serving the homeless since 2009, and I have always been proud of the support that this community has shown to individuals who are experiencing homelessness. Permitted encampments have found hosts here in Shoreline since Tent City 3 first came to Calvin Presbyterian Church in 2009, and many churches have since hosted camps with no problems, inspiring amazing levels of moral and material support from families in the surrounding neighborhoods. In late 2015, the City Council passed Resolution 379, in which the Council directed the city’s Planning Commission to review the city zoning codes with a view to reducing barriers even more for people experiencing homelessness in this community. Our Mayor, Chris Roberts, has even taken time out of his busy schedule to visit Camp United We Stand, one of the camps currently hosted in Shoreline. This personal interest meant a lot to the residents of that camp: people who often feel slighted, ignored, or actively ostracized because of their housing status, but who have felt accepted and welcomed in Shoreline.

Considering the degree to which so many of the people of Shoreline and their representatives in government have shown great compassion to those who are homeless, Greater Seattle Cares is chagrined to see the proposed amendments to the zoning code that are the results of the Planning Commission’s recent work. These proposed amendments do not reflect the spirit of the directive given to the Planning Council. Instead of lowering barriers for people experiencing homelessness, they will instead make it more difficult for churches and other organizations in Shoreline to host formal encampments. Specifically, the required 20-foot set-back will make almost 90% of the churches in Shoreline ineligible to host an encampment. The requirement for a “managing agency” that owns or leases the land on which the camp resides creates another barrier and ignores the successful relationships that these self-managing camps have had over the years with their church hosts.

In fact, some parts of these amendments may have legal implications for the city.
·         The federal land use provisions of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 (RLUIPA), 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000cc, et seq., protect individuals, houses of worship, and other religious institutions from discrimination in zoning and landmarking laws. In particular, the law protects against any “land use regulation that . . . unreasonably limits religious assemblies, institutions, or structures within a jurisdiction.” Since the provision of sanctuary to the poor and homeless is a long-standing, even ancient, right of religious institutions, the two stipulations mentioned above could be construed as in effect placing the city out of compliance with RLUIPA. For more information on RLUIPA, see

·         State laws RCW 35.21.915 and RCW 35A.21.360 also prohibit local government from taking any action that “imposes conditions other than those necessary to protect public health and safety and that do not substantially burden the decisions or actions of a religious organization regarding the location of housing or shelter for homeless persons on property owned by the religious organization.” The limitations described above that would be created by the proposed amendments have nothing at all to do with public health and safety.

Respecting the work of the Planning Commission, and realizing that those unfamiliar with permitted transitional encampments often misconstrue how these function, Greater Seattle Cares would like to propose alternative language to parts of the proposed amendments to the zoning code. I attach these suggested changes, written in Microsoft Word with the “track changes” function. We hope that you will adopt them as you vote on January 30th, or that you will send the entire amendment package back to the Planning Commission for revision, with clear instructions about the nature of the changes to be made.

Thank you for your dedicated work on behalf of the citizens of Shoreline. Please show that you stand for ALL of Shoreline’s citizens, even those who are having difficulties in their lives.

Cindy Roat

Cynthia E. Roat, MPH
President, Greater Seattle Cares

You can read the entire letter online here, at Shoreline's public comments page. You can also see many other people's comments about the matter, including those of Michael Ramos (Church Council of Greater Seattle), Alison Niebauer (Calvin Presbyterian), and Prince of Peace Lutheran. We'd like to thank everyone who commented against the ordinance as proposed.

Homelessness Advocacy 101 Workshop

Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness is conducting workshops on Advocacy!

Per their website,

Our workshops are fun! We'll discuss the funding proposals for shelter, housing, and supportive services currently being considered and review the steps that everyone can take to make sure housing and homelessness concerns are prioritized in our local government. Nancy Amidei, an incomparable pro-democracy cheerleader, local policy experts, and Coalition staff will present details about 3-4 important issues. We'll provide you with simple actions, sample messages, and the chance to practice your skills. You will leave informed and inspired with tools for engaging your classmates, fellow congregants, neighbors and others to speak up and make a difference.

Dates are February 22, February 26, and March 5.

Registration is required, so head for their website and sign up!

Sunday, January 22, 2017

What’s New with GSC? January 2017

Highlighting homelessness in the Puget Sound 
Camp Second Chance gets a second chance 
When Camp Second Chance moved onto unpermitted public land on Meyers Way in July of 2016, the neighbors expected nothing but drugs and garbage. However, the exemplary behavior of this highly organized, neat and friendly camp won over first the neighbors, then the police, then the fire department, and finally the City of Seattle itself. After months of being defended against sweeps by their neighbors, in late 2016 Camp Second Chance was finally authorized as a permitted camp by the City of Seattle! Congratulations, CSC!

UW develops a first-ever on-line course on homelessness 
With Tent City 3 staying at the UW, the University has developed an on-line course about homelessness. We believe this is the first course of its kind.
Check it out at

In Shoreline, on the other hand . . . .

In late 2015, the Shoreline City Council directed its Planning Commission to review the city’s zoning code with a view to lowering barriers for people experiencing homelessness. After an outcry from a small group of residents of Richmond Beach who feared that such amendments would bring more homeless people into their neighborhoods, the Planning Commission sent to the Council a set of amendments that will make it very difficult for any organization to host a camp. Among these is a 20-foot “set-back” rule that drops the number of churches in Shoreline with enough space to host even a small encampment from about 25 to 3. Greater Seattle Cares is asking the City Council to adopt instead alternative language that would not result in a ban on homelessness in Shoreline.

We need the City Council to know that Shoreline can be home to ALL types of people, and that everyone deserves a safe place to sleep.
Come to the Shoreline City Council meeting on January 30th 
at Shoreline City Hall at 17500 Midvale Ave N 
and speak out against these anti-homeless laws. 

For more information, contact GSC President Cindy Roat at

Read on, for the news from the camps that GSC supports: 

Tent City 3 (TC3) 
Currently at: The University of Washington, Parking Lot 35, on the south side of NE Pacific St, just west of Brooklyn Ave. NE.
Next move: TC3’s next move will be on March 18th. The camp does not yet have a host for the next move.
Requests: TC3 is asking for zip ties and batteries. And a host site for March!
Husky Health Bridge, a service group of UW dentistry students
News: While staying at UW, the camp is receiving a lot of attention. Besides the on-line course on homelessness described above, a variety of student groups from the School of Dentistry, the School of Social Work, and the School of Pharmacy are working with GSC to provide professional services to the camp. GSC also continues to deliver supplies and to meet other immediate camp needs. For example, the camp’s coffee maker died this week. Since hot coffee is often the only way residents stay warm in the 20ยบ weather, GSC will be delivering a new one this weekend.

Camp United We Stand (CUWS) 
Currently at: St. Dunstan’s Episcopal Church, 722 N 145th St. Shoreline
Next move: CUWS plans to move on February 15th to Shoreline Free Methodist Church, although the approval is still in progress.
Requests: CUWS needs a stapler, AAA batteries, standard angle brooms, dust pans, large latex gloves, Pine Sol (or some other all-purpose cleaner), and Windex

Shoreline Mayor Chris Roberts
News: CUWS has organized to fight the proposed amendments to the Shoreline zoning code, described above. In response to their challenge, Mayor Chris Roberts made a 1-hour visit to the camp on January 19th. Thank you, Mayor Roberts, for taking the time to come see a transitional encampment with your own eyes!

Camp Unity Eastside (CUE) 
Currently at: Kirkland Congregational Church, 106 5th Ave, Kirkland, WA 98033
Next move: CUE will be moving on the weekend of Feb. 3rd and 4th to St. Jude’s Catholic Church, located at 10526 166th Ave. NE in Redmond.
Requests: Help with their upcoming move!
News: The camp currently has 14 residents, because so many have moved into permanent housing. The camp is expected to grow again, however, when it gets to its new site.

Camp Second Chance (CSC) 
Currently at: 9625 Myers Way S, Seattle
Next move: Since CSC has been permitted by the City of Seattle, the camp will not have to move again!
Requests: CSC is in need of some clip boards, duct tape and brooms.
News: As part of the transition to being a permitted camp, CSC will soon be receiving a solid amount of public funding to install water and electricity and water, and to help pay for the Honey Buckets and the garbage service. While the camp will continue to be self-governed, the non-profit organization Patacara Community Services will become the managing agency for the camp.

Camp Second Chance
Picture from the Patacara website
If you would like more detail on any of these topics please contact 

Thank you all for your support and especially your big hearts and generous spirits in doing what you can to help those experiencing homelessness.