Sunday, August 22, 2010


A few weeks ago, on a quiet Sunday afternoon much like this one, a neighbor came to our door wanting to discuss the plans for King County’s Tent City #4 to move into the parking lot of the “church at the corner,” just a few houses away from ours. 

“I really have no problem with them coming to our neighborhood,” this man said, “except that the church’s septic system simply won’t accommodate them.” 


I suggested that if the church – a new one built just a few years ago – accommodates large church functions like weddings and carnivals, I’d think they’d be able to accommodate some homeless people as well.  “But that’s long-term,” the man insisted.  “Three whole months!”

“And plus,” he added, “our garage was broken into just last week and my iPod was stolen from my car!”

“Well wait a minute,” I reasoned.  “They’re not even here yet, so how can you blame them for a crime in our neighborhood last week?”

I kid you not, this was his answer:

“Well, I’m just sayin’…”

Yes, you are.  You’re just sayin’ that you’re an ignorant, bigoted, intolerant man.

So this man took hours out of his day on a beautiful Sunday afternoon to protest homeless people moving into our neighborhood, screaming “NIMBY!  NIMBY!” (not in my backyard), and they came anyway.

They’ve been here for about a month now and I want to personally report that they have been nothing but courteous, quiet, clean, and responsible.  There has not been one single “incident” involving any of them and, if anything, our neighborhood is even cleaner than normal because some of them even regularly make the rounds cleaning up any trash on the streets of the neighborhood! 


I decided this morning to introduce myself at Tent City #4 and to welcome them to the neighborhood.  I parked in front of their “front office” and mentioned to them that I’m a blogger and that I was hoping to blog my impressions.


They couldn’t have been more friendly and accommodating, and they even offered to give me a tour – which I will pass on to you.  (Oh, Mr. Neighbor, are you there?)

The first thing I noticed was the total and complete organization of all aspects of the camp. 


The rules are strict, consisting of a ONE-strike-and-you’re-out policy regarding drugs and violence, as well as very strict rules around noise and respect for the neighborhood. 

Everything was neat and tidy, from loaner bikes…


…to clean donated clothes…


…to the kitchen…


…to the neat rows of tents -- where it must have been miserable during last week’s heat wave… and where it’s wet, cold, and drizzly today.



That septic system that my neighbor insisted was insufficient turns out to be more than sufficient, although the health department and the county do stipulate that only about half the residents can take a (military-style) shower on any given day.


I asked whether any of the residents have jobs and was told that MOST of them do, but they simply can’t make ends meet since many also pay child support or other obligatory expenses and they just can’t meet the demands of first and last months rent and other expenses involved in finding and maintaining a place to live.. 

This is the working poor, folks, not a bunch of drugged out derelicts.  For any of us who live paycheck to paycheck, this could be us next week or next month. 

I think this video says it best:

Those old bananas in my kitchen just found themselves a new home in the form of a few loaves of banana bread.  I’ll bring it to the residents of Tent City #4 while it’s still warm because on a drizzly day like this a little warm sweetness would feel good in anyone’s belly!


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jennifer said...

Good for you Carol, and good for your neighborhood (well... minus one).

Lynn said...

Thanks for the tour, Carol, but especially thanks for being your awesome self! Your neighbor needs to open up his mind and sprinkle in some compassion. This is the new face of the working poor, and we all need to realize it. I'm sure that banana bread will be much appreciated. I'm so proud to call you my friend.


Tonya said...

What a WONDERFUL post!!! I have tears! This is absolutely incredible.

Lynn said...

The letters to the editor of the local paper about this have sickened me. People are just dreaming up reasons why they can't be exposed to something like tent city, ignoring the facts that crime doesn't go up, there are few complaints and these people just want to be left to live their lives in peace.

Tent City has been hosted three times by the Unitarian church that is about as far from my house as the current location is from yours, and I've never noticed anything negative as a result. Both my kids and I have helped cook and serve meals to them and they're down-on-their luck but perfectly nice people.

I'm so glad that church by you ignored the ignorant and are doing the right thing.

Lynn (the other one, that lives near you. :) )

Margaret said...

I love this post AND your attitude!! In fact, I love YOU, Carol!! You are an amazing woman; I admire what you're doing. I would hope to do the same.

Kathrin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kathrin said...

Carol, I would love to give you a huge HUG!! What a HUMAN thing to do... To treat someone with respect and kindness. No matter what there circumstance is. Shouldn't we all be doing exactly that??!!
Most of us are much closer to 'Tent City' then we(want to)realize...

You truly are an awesome woman. To look the other way is easy and YOU choose not to!

Kat, FL
PS: I deleted my post before

Goofball said...

wow I don't know what to say. What a good reality check this makes , to give the increasing number of working poor a face.
You have such a great warm heart and I'm very glad that you took us on your tour.

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