Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Tent City 4

Ruth Bender
Lynda Turet

Tent City 4 (TC4) is a self-organized community of people who have made homes out of a neighborhood of tents. Between 70 and 80 women, men, and couples form this tight community, some staying for a few days and some on and off for years. The circumstances that bring them to TC4 vary - from having just lost a job to shouldering the burden of medical or child support debt to losing a home. LeAnn, our resident tour guide, had been living there for just over a month. It was her first homeless experience after having separated from her husband who suffered from a severe mental disorder. She shared that, “living here has been the most safe I’ve ever felt.” TC4’s strict policies screen residents for criminal records, residents work shifts to provide 24-hour security, and a front entrance monitors all that come in and out. Also, because much is required of TC4 residents (including mandatory weekly community meetings and volunteering for “community credits” and security shifts) those that end up staying are a self-selected bunch of committed residents.

TC4 also gets the support of partners. The host church, currently The Community Church of Issaquah, donates space and electricity for 90 days, after which time TC4 must relocate to another site (on January 21st it will move to Holy Spirit Lutheran Church of Kirkland). Many of the tents are donated by the nonprofit SHARE/WHEEL. Every night different church and community organizations provide a hot meal and they receive donations of food and clothing/supplies.

On the Thursday afternoon of our visit we found the tents and surrounding areas incredibly clean, quiet, and organized. Several communal areas included a kitchen, a donated supply tent, Porta Potty restrooms, a hot shower, a laundry room, and an area for communal meals with a cable television and computer with Internet access. It was clear that, despite its temporary structures, this was a vibrant and well-functioning community. What is more, it is one that - as Leanne explained to us - had changed the lives of several of its residents. Some have left TC4 to start stable jobs, find permanent housing, or pursue their education. Others have simply benefited from having a safe place to sleep and settle. They invite anyone interested to visit their community, take a tour, and find out what TC4 is all about first-hand.

View Tent City 4 (Community Church of Issaquah) in a larger map

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