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.