Tent City 3 back at St. Mark's

As many north Capitol Hill residents may already know, Tent City 3, the roving camp for homeless men and women, is back at St. Mark's Episcopal Cathedral. The camp, which varies from 70 to 90 residents, is tucked into the cathedral's lower parking lot at 1245 10th Ave. E.

Tent City 3, and its eastside sibling, Tent City 4, is a program of SHARE/WHEEL in response to the problem of homelessness in King County. SHARE (Seattle Housing And Resource Effort) is a community of homeless men and women whose goal is to provide a safe environment for homeless adults. Tent City's current stay will be the eighth time the camp has resided at St. Mark's.

Indoor shelters provide emergency protection for roughly 2,500 of the estimated 8,000 homeless men and women in King County. Tent Cities 3 and 4 provide an alternative for more than 150 people who would otherwise be forced to sleep "in the woods," as one resident put it. In general, about half the residents are employed, about 10 percent are women and many are couples.

"I feel safe here," said Tent City resident Dan S.

For many, Tent City's strict code of zero drug and alcohol tolerance, the 9 p.m. to 8 a.m. quiet time, the privacy of tents for couples and security of self-policing make the roving camp a desirable choice among less hospitable alternative. In most indoor shelters, couples are separated, there is no privacy and personal belongings are vulnerable to theft.

The camps are almost entirely self-sufficient. But given the lack of indoor plumbing - the camp uses portable toilets - Tent City welcomes neighborly assistance. Donations are welcome. Desired supplies included high-protein foods that can be eaten cold or heated in a microwave, fresh fruit and veggies, coffee, sanitary wipes, duct tape, warm socks, batteries and wooden palettes. As always there is a need for tents and tarps.

In an effort to make connections with the neighborhood, Tent City 3 residents, along with volunteers from St. Mark's, invite Capitol Hill residents to a home-cooked dinner on Sunday evenings through April. The meal begins at 5:30 p.m. The charge is a free-will donation that will help support Tent City 3.

The buffet-style dinners give Capitol Hill residents a chance to meet their Tent City neighbors. Tent City residents also host tours of the camp at 10:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. after regular church services on Sundays.

Donations may be dropped off at the entry tent or in yellow bins placed outside the front doors of St. Mark's cathedral.

For information about the Sunday dinners and tours, call Becky Crook, associate for St. Mark's Church in the World Ministries, 323-0300, ext 253. For information about SHARE/WHEEL, call 448-7889.

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