Sunny skies contributed to a smooth setup Saturday as a crew of residents and volunteers transported Tent City 4 from Kirkland to in Redmond.
The City of Redmond has granted St. Jude and Tent City 4 a 90-day permit to host the homeless encampment on the church’s Education Hill property. This is the third time Tent City 4 has been located at the church since its launch in 2004.
The encampment is part of a larger Tent City program across King County that is sponsored and managed by the Seattle Housing and Resources Effort and the Women’s Housing Equality and Enhancement League (SHARE/WHEEL).
Alan Erickson, a resident of Tent City 4 and a member of its executive committee, said the community has a limit of 100 residents.
Most Tent City residents are very appreciative of the opportunity to have a roof over their heads, said Arthur P. Gonzales, 42, who has lived in Tent City 4 since losing his job late last fall. Gonzales said the set-up is especially helpful to people who are searching for a job because they can access laundry and showers, and benefit from the camaraderie of others who have similar stories.
“We are homeless, but we do have our pride,” Gonzales said.
On Saturday, a group of carpenters, foremen, and other workers arranged pallets along the church lawn and connected tubing for covered structures like erector sets. Ultimately, the encampment was to include a community gathering area, an executive committee room, a donations center, and a library/T.V. room.
The people who took part in Saturday's move were in good spirits, despite the fact that they began their day at 5:30 a.m. They expected to complete the setup by about 2 p.m., and fortunately the weather was being as cooperative as the team moving the community.
Erickson said churches such as St. Jude’s have been very welcoming of Tent City 4, and most communities have been tolerant. The encampment is currently at capacity with about 100 residents, he said, but the numbers will likely fluctuate a little.
Tent City 4 is guided by a strict code of conduct, Erickson said. There’s absolutely no drinking or drugs allowed on the grounds, he said, and anyone who wants to stay in tent city undergoes a nationwide criminal background check. The camp always has someone from the executive committee on duty to deal with any problems that arise, and has 24-hour security patrols as well.
SHARE says the tent cities in King County, which include Tent City 4 on the Eastside, and Tent City 3 in Seattle, are needed because there is not enough indoor shelter space to meet the needs of the local homeless population. Each Tent City provides its own trash disposal and portable toilets, as well as bus tickets so participants can get to needed appointments and job searches. There is also a food preparation area, and volunteers often donate hot meals.
The entire set-up will be moved to another location three months from now when the St. Jude's 90-day permit to host the homeless encampment expires.