UUC’s History and Hosting Tent City 3

Collection of slips of paper with aspirations about connecting and hope

After the September 4 service, stop by the learning station in Nathan Johnson Hall to learn more about the possibility of UUC becoming a host to Tent City 3 next spring. Last Sunday, Rev. Beth shared from the pulpit “We’re in conversation with an organization called Share/WHEEL…a self-governing community of folks who are currently homeless, and it’s a really incredible program. We met with some of the residents last week to imagine what it might look like. I asked them what they wanted us to know at UUC, and they said Tent City 3 is a safe haven, a safe haven from the chaos.”

As shared in previous Gateway newsletters, representatives of three UUC social justice groups—the Social Justice Steering Committee, Teen Feed, and Lake City Partners—are exploring the possibility of UUC hosting SHARE’s Tent City 3 in the next year. Last week we shared some thoughts about why doing so would further our Mission and Vision Statements. This week we address how doing so would be in keeping with UUC’s long tradition of prophetic social justice work, as well as direct service.

UUC’s Proud History of Providing Housing and Serving the Homeless in Connection with Our Prophetic Social Justice Work

Providing housing and serving the homeless have factored into UUC’s social justice work for the past 60 years.

Civil Rights and Seattle Fair Housing Efforts.

UUC organizations and membersplayed leadership roles in the Seattle chapter of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s.

UUC was particularly active in “Fair Housing” efforts to open up home purchases by Black and interracial families outside Seattle’s “Central Area” where housing for those families had been unavailable due to “redlining” and racially restrictive covenants.

LBGTQ Rights and DeWolfe House: Supportive AIDS Housing.

Our denomination and our church have been leaders in welcoming LGBTQ members into our congregations and in supporting the movement for LBGTQ equality, including the right to marry, that was sparked in part by the AIDS crisis of the 1980’s.

In the 1980’s UUC purchased and operated the 7-bedroom Mark DeWolfe House named after a Unitarian minister who died of AIDS. Members of the congregation donated funding for the house, located on 14th Avenue east of Seattle University, which was used provide the first supportive AIDS housing in the country.

The Sanctuary Movement. UUC played a leading local role in the Sanctuary Movement of the 1980s and 1990’s witnessing our own government’s violation of its signed treaties and conventions, and its support of brutal right-wing regimes in Central America. The Sanctuary Movement provided protection from deportation and death through legal assistance, assistance in reaching safety in Canada, and housing in church property.

When UUC purchased the land on which our current building sits, it contained three Tudor-style houses. When UUC became a Sanctuary church, it provided housing in one of those buildings.

UU Housing Group. In 1997 as homelessness in Seattle had become more prevalent, the church established a separate entity called the UU Housing Group and for twenty-five years used the Tudor houses to provide permanent supportive housing for individuals with behavioral health issues. 

Teen Feed. From 2003 to the present UUC members and families have served warm meals and donated basic needs items for homeless street youth in the University District through Teen Feed. Our work started as subbing for some gaps in the organization’s meal team schedule and then grew to hosting 18 meals per year, with nearly 30 congregants – ranging in age from 14 to 70’s – now involved.

Supporting Lake City Partners. Begun in 2021 UUC’s most recent effort to respond to the crisis of homelessness is a partnership, established under the auspices of our Economic Justice Team, with Lake City Partners. UUC members donate lunch food and make sandwiches two days a month, serving a round-the-clock homeless shelter and a day center. In addition, families have donated food, clothing, tents, tarps and toiletries and helped with an emergency shelter during winter cold snaps.

UUC’s Five Social Justice Pillars. As a follow-up to UUC’s Strategic Plan adopted in 2013, the “Justice as Spiritual Practice” Implementation Team identified five pillars of social justice. Particularly relevant to the proposal to host Tent City 3 are: 

  • We stand for economic justice
  • We stand with our neighbors

By hosting Tent City 3 UUC would both build on our historic legacy and act consistently with our pillars of social justice.

Please join us in considering how the proposal to host Tent City 3 fits with our history and pillars of social justice.

Questions? Please contact Dave Mentz or Sallie Dacey.