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Monday, June 28, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Tent city may move to another church site

Seattle Times Eastside bureau

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Woodinville could be the next home to a controversial tent city that is almost halfway through its 90-day stay at a Bothell church.

At an informational meeting last night, officials from the Woodinville Alliance Church told about 175 people that they've been discussing hosting Tent City 4 since May 25. A final decision will be made in the coming weeks by church leaders and staff.

Church leaders asked the audience to write down questions, in part to avoid the shouting matches that have erupted at previous Eastside community meetings on the tent-city issue.

Since the homeless encampment was set up May 17 on the grounds of St. Brendan Catholic Church in Bothell, it's been greeted with a mixed reaction from the community. Some have brought gifts, while others have rallied against it.

The camp survived a lawsuit filed by the city of Bothell, although a King County Superior Court judge asked St. Brendan to apply for a special permit, a process the church has begun.

Woodinville church leaders said they could host the tent city on 2 acres in the northwest corner of the church's property, which is on unincorporated land just outside the city boundaries, at 13940 N.E. 166th St.

Church leaders have been talking with King County about getting a temporary-use permit to host the encampment, said Doug Moore, who chairs the church's governing board.

A Woodinville tent city would not be policed around the clock, said Maj. Robin Fenton of the King County Sheriff's Office. Bothell police currently watch the camp in shifts throughout the day and night; so far, at least three people have been arrested in and around Tent City 4, and a registered sex offender was asked to leave the camp.

"We would be responding to incidents," Fenton said. "But I do not believe we necessarily need to have an officer in uniform [there] 24 hours. We also don't have the resources."

The idea of a tent city initially came as a shock to leaders of the nearby Woodinville Montessori, said Mary Schneider, the head of the school, which has 80 to 100 preschoolers. But on reflection, the school has decided that the perceived threats to student safety, and of parents pulling students, is manageable, she said.

"Our core values are to raise the children to be compassionate, socially aware and committed to serving their community," she said.

Steven Pyeatt, founder of the King County Communities for Fair Process, said the camp is "enabling" homelessness rather than solving a problem.

He said that although tent-city residents are screened against some Washington sex-offender lists, it's easy for residents to lie about their identities or to hide convictions they've picked up in other states.

"To say there is never going to be a problem is a lie," Pyeatt said.

King County, which has pledged to help find a new home for the tent city, also will hold a public meeting if the Woodinville church moves ahead with the idea. Tent-city leaders say they're committed to leaving the Bothell site by Aug. 17.

Nick Perry: 206-515-5639 or nperry@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2004 The Seattle Times Company

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