Editorial: Tent City 4 deserves its temporary home

It's news many will not welcome. At the end of October, the Rev. Kevin Duggan announced that Tent City 4, a homeless camp of up to 100 homeless men and women who sleep in tents, will move to the St. John Vianney church in Finn Hill later this month. The homeless camp arrives from Woodinville after having first located in Bothell late last Spring. It's getting closer to Kirkland.

The upcoming move has no doubt raised legitimate safety concerns among many who live near the church. No doubt Rev. Duggan was aware of these concerns when he made his decision. Given that there would be predictable and even strong opposition, Rev. Duggan and his church deserve praise for providing a home for Tent City 4.

Given the lack of public notice and the grandstanding of King County Executive Ron Sims when Tent City 4 came to the Eastside six months ago, the initial public reaction of surprise was appropriate. Sims seemed to be making decisions with a signet ring and wax.

But Tent City 4 is now a known entity. And homelessness is a problem that affects all communities, not just large metropolitan areas like Seattle. During a count of homeless people one night last month, an annual event in Seattle done for the first time on the Eastside, the count came to 132 people, including several people in Kirkland. No doubt the actual totals are much higher. The fact is that homeless people are part of our community whether we see them or not.

Share/Wheel, the group behind Tent City 4, has an established track record and a tested code of conduct for those who stay in the camp. They also have a vested interest in being responsible citizens. And they succeed: Tent City 3, a precursor camp to its Eastside sibling, has repeatedly been invited back to various locations, staying five times at Seattle's St. Mark's Episcopal Church alone. Additionally, Tent City 4, with such a high profile, is clearly on the police's radar.

It's by no means a perfect situation - tent cities are not a cure for homelessness. But then being homeless is also far from perfect. What Tent City 4 provides for up to 100 homeless men and women is a much safer place to stay than living on the street, in a ravine or under a freeway. And while neighborhood concerns over safety are, of course, legitimate, responsible and logical, homelessness is a far more dangerous proposition for those who are actually homeless.

The larger problems and worries that greeted Tent City 4's arrival on the Eastside months ago did not materialize. If they had, or if they do in the future, then the dialogue changes. Until then, Tent City 4 deserves the continued chance to prove they can be good neighbors.

So kudos to the St. John Vianney church for taking a stand and for letting Tent City 4 stay on their property. Perhaps a Kirkland church will do the same in a few months when Tent City 4 once again finds itself in need of a home.

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