Tent city settles in nearby as panel rethinks policies
Seattle Times staff reporter
Only a few hours after residents of Tent City 4 finished moving from Kirkland to their new site east of Woodinville yesterday, the Woodinville Planning Commission met to discuss new regulations for temporary homeless encampments.
Tent City 4 has been in Woodinville once. And while city officials acknowledged there were no significant issues, there also are no established procedures for housing a tent city. So the commission is trying to come up with guidelines.
The proposed regulations are similar to rules Tent City 4 imposes on itself and the guidelines the city followed when the encampment was there about a year ago, said Woodinville community-development director Ray Sturtz.
"We based it on that [first] experience," Sturtz said. "It worked well before."
The regulations include barring sex offenders or those with warrants from living in the community and set health, sanitation and transportation standards for proposed sites.
Woodinville's recommendations come just a few weeks after the Bellevue City Council passed its own regulations. The roving Tent City 4 normally moves every three months, but Bellevue's regulations limit potential stays in that city to two months.
Sturtz said there was no reason to follow in Bellevue's footsteps.
"We didn't have a reason to shorten it. Our experience was it functioned well," he said.
Before the tent city left Kirkland, camp adviser Bruce Thomas said moving was one of the hardest things to do because the camp had to uproot itself and settle elsewhere.
At its new site at the Woodinville Unitarian Universalist Church in unincorporated King County, residents were busy unloading bags, digging trenches for electrical and water lines and setting up the tents they will live in for another three months.
Don Goodwin, 47, another resident at the camp, said the new location works well and that he was greeted with open arms. Goodwin has lived at the camp for several months and said protesters demonstrated against the camp's arrival at previous locations, such as in Bothell.
But Goodwin said no one has protested the new site and said camp residents were looking forward to getting back to their jobs. The move usually takes about a day, Goodwin said.
"If you're not here on move day, you do not live at this site," he said, though there are exceptions for those unable to schedule different shifts at work.
Critics of Tent City 4 say it brings crime into areas and does nothing to help the homeless get back on their feet.
"There's no motivation. There's no incentive for them to do something different [with their lives]," said Scott St. Clair, an executive search consultant who works in Bothell and has been a critic of the encampment.
"I don't see where Tent City 4 does anything to change things, especially the lives of the people there," he said.
But residents of the tent city and those involved with it say otherwise.
"Tent City 4 showed itself at our congregation to be a very gracious and disciplined community of people," said the Rev. Jim Head-Corliss of Lake Washington United Methodist Church, where the camp was for the past three months.
"Going into it, our neighbors were very concerned, and some of them were very vocal," Head-Corliss said. "From the reports that I have ... Tent City 4 was quiet and uneventful. To my knowledge, none of the voiced fears by the community were realized while they were here. It was a very peaceful, wonderful stay."
This is the sixth move for Tent City 4 since it first arrived in Bothell in May 2004, and while the camp can hold up to 100 people, Goodwin said it currently has about 60.
Officials say Woodinville police and paramedics will still respond to calls from the area even though it is in unincorporated King County.
Ari Bloomekatz: 206-464-2540 or email@example.com
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