A bit of context for those of you who aren’t in the Seattle area.
Recently, a local church in Bothell decided to host a homeless shelter known as “Tent City 4”. This decision caused a great deal of consternation on the part of the people living around the church, and the city of Bothell sued to force the church to close the tent city. There’s been a bunch of going around about it, and eventually another church, the Northshore United Church of Christ agreed to host the homeless shelter.
It turns out that the Northshore United Church of Christ is located across the street from a local Junior High School, and down the street from the elementary school my daughter Sharron attends.
Last night, they had a public meeting about the church, which was attended by about 200 people. One of the attendees was John Gronquist, who later on wrote the following email message in response to an “Oooh, they’re going to stick homeless people in OUR neighborhood, we’ve got to stop them!” email message.
Normally I can't stand people who "reply all", but since you've taken the liberty of emailing everyone with your views, it's only fair that at least one counter view is allowed a chance to speak. This email was forwarded to me by my wife's account so there's a chance I've missed any discussion which was spurred from TinyWeeHobbit's mail. Sorry in advance for all those who don't want to be involved..
I live off of 168th, and have two young children. I've also visited Tent City in Bothell and seen it with my own eyes. I've also looked up the stats of the abuses in Bothell, as well as the 2003 crime statistics for the city of Woodinville as a whole.. Rather surprising those were. Did you know that there were 83 counts of domestic violence in Woodinville in 2003? That there were 6 forcible rapes? 21 residential Burglaries? 67 Vehicle thefts? 6 arsons?? MY GOD! Someone should do something! Someone should keep all of Woodinville away from Woodinville!!
Compared to the average small town Tent City's crime stats are really low. It's more actively patrolled than our neighborhood currently is, has more active social programs visiting it to check up on problems, and unlike most neighbors they have a REASON to try and behave themselves, because believe it or not the vast majority of them really do want to show that they can make something of themselves and not be simply 'drains on society'.
As a landowning member of the neighborhood and a father I support the Tent City. I'm not going to say that there's no risk at all, that'd be foolish. But I will say that the risk is low, actively managed, and ultimately worth it.
Every night I drive down 168th and see the signs, as do my children.. In fact, another neighbor's children were holding signs last night and cursed me out when I failed to honk in support of their protest. Signs in support of the tent city have strangely been removed and/or defaced. Odd that. Interesting that one of the key arguments against the Tent City is that it'd cause 'litter, vandalism, and profanity' in the neighborhood. So far the only litter, vandalism, and profanity I've encountered, has been from the protesters against the tent city. Clearly there's some key difference I'm missing..
In any case, one sign in particular seems to be the 'big deal'. That there was a "Level 2 Sex Offender found in Bothell Tent City!!" Well, there's a level 2 sex offender living on 165th right now. RIGHT NOW! You can find her name doing a search in the King Country Sheriff's Sex Offender search by zip code. Not sure how long she's been there, but then, it is a free nation supposedly, and people who've served their punishment normally are considered a chance to start their lives over, and not suffer the rest of their lives for their crimes.. That's normally the case, unless, it appears, you've had the misfortune of not being able to get a job after leaving jail, due, I'm sure, in no part to prejudice about hiring previous offenders.
By the way, you can also find the names of every homeless or transient sex offender registered in the state, which is the same list that the guards working at the tent city will be looking up whenever a new person arrives. Can you say the same of the road on which you live? Do you demand to see the names of each new neighbor and look them up in the Sex Offender database when they move in? Great way to be a popular neighbor, I'd wager.. "Oh, sorry, we can't talk to you until we've looked up every bad thing you've ever done, even if you've served your time for it, and parade it before everyone in the neighborhood so they can shun you as well. Give you a chance? Sorry, can't chance it."
By the way, did you know that one of our neighbor's illegally burns his garbage right across the street from Leota Jr. high, sending toxic clouds of smoke from burning plastics and god knows what into the air every single week we've all lived there? He does it at night, and on weekends, so at least his only is poisoning the after hours programs.. I won't name names, but the police have been repeatedly called, and still there's no sign of a garbage can in front of the house on Fridays, and the lovely smell of toxic fumes wafting through my yard and house and into my children's lungs on a continual basis. This neighbor owns a home though, so I guess illegally burning garbage on regular basis is okay. Have to say though, the night he burned lightbulbs and they went off sounding like 6 gunshots during a dinner party we were having was especially disturbing.
Sorry.. ..I just figured that since we're involved in a little game of shunning people for the no legitimate reason, I'd get my digs in as well..
As far as the 'worth it' argument, I've only this to add..
I won't live in fear. Not of neighbors with 'histories', not of neighbors with irrational fears of the unknown, nor of terrorists, nor of polluting whackjobs who won't spend $16 a month to put the garbage out on the street instead of into my kid's lungs..
We almost lost our youngest child to E. Coli when he was 1 year old from a hamburger at a state fair. THAT'S fear. That's horror the likes of which most of you will never know. Did anyone do anything to clean up our meat industry? NO. It was up to us to protect ourselves, as it always is for any family from any threat from anywhere they live.
I won't live in fear, and I won't teach it to my children. Life is to short and precious and full of wonders to live like that, and I've nothing but honest concern for those who do.
We need to be a part of solving the problems of this nation, instead of pushing them off for future generations or other neighborhoods to deal with. If you're really worried about the security of the Tent City, volunteer for night guard duty. Maybe I'll see you there?
In any case, I apologize for those to whom this mail is mere spam.
John is absolutely right. The decision to object to the hosting of the tent city in Woodinville is backed by nothing but FUD. The real dangers associated with the tent city are nowhere NEAR as bad as the dangers associated with just living in Woodinville (not exactly a high-crime area). Having homeless people in your neighborhood makes people uncomfortable. It reminds them that there are people in our society that AREN’T middle class with nice homes and nice cars. The danger represented by the homeless is an excuse to justify the classist (not racist, but classist) discrimination.
I find it SO frustrating that people can’t bring themselves to actually understand that just because someone is homeless doesn’t mean that their morals and values are any different from anyone else. Just because someone is homeless doesn’t mean that they are evil and must be avoided. We should be trying to HELP these people get back on their feet and not hurting them. Places like Tent City 4 give people dignity. It gives them an address and a phone number that they can use as a reference. It gives them a place they can shower before they go to their interview. If you’re homeless you can’t even get a job at McDonalds because you can’t meet the cleanliness requirements of the restaurant. We don’t have public toilets and showers here on the eastside. We don’t have enough shelter space for the homeless right now, and shutting down things like tent city only increase this problem.
At a minimum, the shelter is only going to be open for six weeks. Is the presence of the shelter SO intolerable that you can’t even abide its presence for 6 weeks?
I’m ecstatic that the United Church of Christ stepped up to the plate to host Tent City 4; I only wish others would understand.
Addendum: The City of Woodinville graciously stepped up and donated the use of several acres of unused city property for the shelter, thus rendering the issue of locating the tent city in a residential area moot.
Edit: Removed comments because the post was becoming a forum for the anti-tent city people. Once this post exceeds the comment time limit (sometime next month), I'll re-enable comments so people can see the other comments that have been made on the article.