Hosting Tent City 3?—Further Learnings

Tent City 3?
From the UUC Social Justice Steering Committee, Lake City Partners and Teen Feed teams

As shared recently, representatives of three UUC social justice groups—the Social Justice Steering Committee, Teen Feed, and our collaboration with Lake City Partners—are exploring the possibility of UUC hosting SHARE/WHEEL’s Tent City 3 in the next year.

As in so many cities around the country, homelessness is a crisis in Seattle and myths about homelessness abound. Hosting the city sanctioned self-organized encampment Tent City 3 is one way to learn more about the crisis and help address it.

Visit to Three Other Churches Who Have Hosted Tent City 3

In August five UUC members interested exploring the opportunity host Tent City 3 held site visits at three different churches that have hosted Tent City 3 multiple times to find out about their experiences. In addition, Rev. Beth spoke to the former minister of the Woodinville Unitarian Church to learn about that church’s experience with hosting other less-established organized encampments.

  • Phinney Ridge Lutheran Church is a four-time winter months host. Their Minister of Outreach, Patrick Meagher, was interviewed by Dave Mentz and Cynthia Salzman;
  • St. Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral is a multiple time summer-months host. Their Director of Operations, Kathy Wickward, was interviewed by Meta Thayer;
  • University Congregational United Church of Christ (UCUCC) is hosting Tent City 3 for the fourth time as of September 2022. Their long-time, just “retired” volunteer liaison to Tent City, Tim Croll, was interviewed by Debbie Maranville and Pam Smith Mentz.
  • In addition, Rev. Beth spoke to the former minister of the Woodinville Unitarian Church to learn about that church’s experience with hosting other less-established organized encampments.

The findings from these conversations are summarized below. Feel free to catch any of these UUC members at coffee hour for more about their impressions.

Key Learnings

Overall. Tent City 3 is a safe, well-organized, city-sanctioned camp with strict rules for residents that each church looks forward to hosting – it is one of 10 encampments in our region that are supported as one means of addressing homelessness. Experiences hosting Tent City camps have been uniformly positive. (This contrasts to some earlier experiences hosting less established camps.)

Liaison. Michele Marchand, who has been our liaison to SHARE/WHEEL, is wonderful to work with, very responsive.

Impact on Host. The cost of hosting Tent City 3 is minimal, and the few problems encountered were not significant, and were readily corrected.

  • “They are good neighbors and keep their space clean.” Kathy Wickward, Director of Operations, St. Marks
  • “Our janitor loves having Tent City on site because they keep both the site and surrounding neighborhood area clean”. Tim Croll, UCUCC volunteer

Learning & Service Opportunities. All three churches primarily interact with Tent City 3 by providing food, but also by donating clothing and other necessities.

St. Mark’s provided weekly Sunday night dinners. Pre-pandemic Phinney Lutheran offered special Sunday evening dinners, too—and Tent City residents were invited to join all-church Wednesday evening dinners.

In addition to making welcome signs, UCUCC religious education students bring cookies to Tent City residents. UCUCC already shares its space with several programs focused on those who are homeless, including Teen Feed and YouthCare’s University District Youth Center.

  • “St. Marks has been blessed by their presence in many ways. Living in a tent is not the secure, permanent housing that everyone deserves….however, Tent City can be a better situation that more traditional shelters, because it allows mixed-gender couples to live together, and residents are not bound to strict curfews, which removes a significant barrier to employment – most residents work full-time.”

Neighbor Response. Hosting Tent City 3 always involves notification and information opportunities to neighbors. Initial concerns are typically assuaged when neighbors learn more about Tent City 3’s structure, strict rules and safety record. Others are changed by the hosting experience itself.

  • “In 2002, the proprietor of Yanni’s, a small Greek eatery on Greenwood Avenue was vehemently opposed to Phinney Lutheran hosting the camp for the first time. By the end of the camp’s three months, Yanni’s prepared a tasty meal for all of the Tent City 3 residents before they departed.”

Stop by to learn more, ask questions or share comments on
Sunday, September 11, after both services

Join the conversation

You are invited the information table in the Atrium, after both services on Homecoming Sunday, to learn more about the proposal that UUC host Tent City 3 in the spring.  Bring your curiosity, questions or concerns. Or, join one of the information sessions to be held on Sunday, September 18 and September 27 (see separate announcement).

For more information, please contact Dave Mentz or Sallie Dacey.