Proposal to Host Tent City 3

"Tent City 3?" on a bright gold background

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’s Tent City 3 March to May 2023.

IMAGINE if...

In offering to share our parking lot with Tent City 3, we have an opportunity to do something to address the homelessness crisis in our community. Doing so aligns with our UU principles, values, mission and vision.

In early September, Rev. Beth Chronister 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.’

Learn More

Frequently Asked Questions

Check out the Frequently Asked Questions sheet that the Tent City 3 team has put together.

Information Sessions

Join one of these 1-hour sessions to learn about Tent City 3 and how it might work if UUC hosts in March through May 2023. We will be joined by a lay leader from another church that has hosted Tent City 3. You are invited to bring your curiosity, questions and concerns. All input—including supportive comments as well as concerns about hosting Tent City 3—will be heard and honored.

  • Sunday, September 18 – Knatvold Room at 10:30am & 12:30pm
  • Tuesday, September 27 – On Zoom at 7:30pm
  • Sunday, October 16 – Knatvold Room at 10:30am & 12:30pm
  • Wednesday, October 19 – On Zoom at 7:30pm
  • Sunday, November 6 – Knatvold Room at 10:30am & 12:30pm
  • Monday, November 7 On Zoom at 7:30pm
Ask Questions and Share Concerns

As of late October, more than 150 congregants have joined the conversation, including nearly 90 that have stopped by the Learning Station in Nathan Johnson Hall. Many have expressed support, and some have inquired about how to get involved. Others have asked questions and shared concerns. Everyone in our UUC community is encouraged to learn more about this possibility. If you aren’t at UUC regularly yet, or prefer to talk to someone individually, contact Sallie Dacey or Dave Mentz.

UUC’s History Related to Housing and Homelessness

Our church has a long tradition of prophetic social justice work, as well as direct service with much of that related to this possibility of hosting Tent City 3. In fact, providing housing and engaging with those who are homeless have factored into the life of this church for the past 60 years. Read more here about the many ways, including fair housing and redlining; operating a supportive house for those living with AIDs; and becoming a sanctuary church in the 1980’s and offering housing to migrants from Central America.

You can also listen to or watch Rev. Jon Luopa’s October 30 sermon related to our history and the possibility of hosting Tent City 3.

Practicalities and Learning from Other Host Congregations

Tent City 3 is a safe, well-organized, city-sanctioned camp that is governed by the residents. It is one of 10 encampments in our region that are supported as one means of addressing homelessness – it is viewed as a steppingstone to more stable, affordable housing. It is often the only option for many families, since most shelters are either for women and children, or men only. Experiences by other congregations hosting Tent City 3 have been overwhelmingly positive. The UUC team visited 4 other congregations who have recently hosted, and all have hosted multiple times.

The size of the camp varies, from 30 to 60, or more. It varies because some move into more stable housing, while others apply to join the camp as space opens. Currently, at University Congregational Church, there are about 55 residents. Tent City 3 provides nearly all that they need – tents, platforms to keep the tents dry and warm during our cooler months, porta-potties, and a common tent where residents may gather and charge their phones. All the residents are engaged in camp life, and they volunteer in various roles, like checking in guests and cleaning up the camp.

UUC’s most important contribution – welcoming Tent City 3 to share our parking lot for three months. We’d also offer them access to outside water and electricity for charging their phones.  Link here to learn more about how the camp operates. Link here to learn more about the logistics.

An Opportunity to Get Proximate to Our Community Crisis that Challenges Many

We witness this crisis every day, with many in our community living in cars, tents, RVs, shelters and tiny house villages. In the face of such an overwhelming societal issue, it’s too easy to dehumanize the individuals suffering from homelessness. But our 1st Principle calls us to see homeless folks in the street and in encampments as our neighbors. Link to some stories that can teach us something about those impacted by homelessness, like Sheryl, Lacey and Billy . May they inspire us to build a better world.

We cannot create justice without getting close to places where injustices prevail. We have to get proximate.

Bryan Stevenson
Founder, Equal Justice Initiative
Author of Just Mercy, the Unitarian Universalist Association 
2015/16 Common Read 

The University of Washington surveyed their community after they first hosted Tent City 3 in 2017. Most in the UW community viewed the stay as positive and said there weren’t any major surprises or issues. UUC member Kira McCoy was involved as a graduate student, and shared the results. Tent City 3 will return to UW for the third time in December. Seattle Pacific University hosted Tent City 3 three times between 2012 to 2018, and two faculty conducted research to learn more, interviewing 60 residents. They concluded that “the data challenges what we think we know about the causes of homelessness.” They identified four myths held by many of us.

The Process—Making a Decision

Opportunities to Learn More and Offer Feedback: You are encouraged to avail yourself of the many ways you might do this, as listed above – stop by the Learning Station on Sunday mornings; join an information session; read more in the many Gateway articles; and contact one of UUC’s Tent City 3 team members. Decide what works best for you. So far, more than 150 congregants have joined the conversation.

Forming the Team: This small group of lay leaders visited 4 other congregations that have hosted Tent City 3 to learn more. Upon learning that there is a need for a host site in Spring 2023, Tent City 3 residents were invited to meet with the Social Justice Steering Committee, along with lay leaders from our Lake City Partners and Teen Feed teams. Rev. Jon Luopa joined this first conversation, and then Rev. Beth Chronister joined a follow-up meeting with Tent City 3 residents upon her return. This UUC team is facilitating opportunities for congregants to learn more and share input, and they are brainstorming ways to address any concerns with Church staff. Rev. Jon Luopa, Rev. Beth Chronister, the rest of the staff, and the Board of Trustees have been involved at various steps along the way.

Feedback: To date, many congregants have expressed support in UUC hosting. Several have questioned where congregants who are joining Sunday services in person might park, if a large part of the parking lot would be used by the Tent City 3 residents during March, April and May 2023. Others have expressed interest that UUC reach out to share more with the neighbors. The staff had identified these issues early on, so UUC’s Tent City team had done a bit of brainstorming. Please take a look at plans thus far, and share other concerns and offer your ideas.

  • Parking: UUC’s Tent City 3 team has begun to explore additional parking options within a few blocks of the church. For instance, there are at least 50 parking spaces in nearby businesses—within 2 blocks on 35th Avenue—that are closed on Sundays. One nearby business has already offered to make their lot available on Sundays. Some congregants have offered that they might use alternate transportation options, as they did on Earth Day last April 24—bus, walk, bike and carpool. The Tent City 3 team conducted a survey to seek your feedback, as they finalize options that could work well during this 3-month window. Of the people who responded to our survey and say they regularly park in the UUC lot, two-thirds would “definitely” consider an alternative to parking there during the three months that Tent City 3 would be using part of our lot. Read more about the parking and transportation survey.
  • Neighborhood outreach: UUC’s Tent City 3 team sent a letter out to over 400 neighbors, inviting them to come learn more and hear directly from Tent City 3 residents. The team also reached out to Congregation Beth Shalom, the Northeast Branch of the Seattle Public library and some of the local businesses. Most expressed support about our hosting Tent City 3. Read more about our neighborhood outreach.

Congregational Meeting on Sunday, November 13: The Social Justice Steering Committee recommended that the Board of Trustees host a special congregational meeting where all members can add their voice through an advisory vote. Rev. Jon Luopa will decide, based upon this feedback, whether UUC will proceed.

Tent City 3 Team

Our UUC team evolved from a shared interest in the homelessness crisis in our community. Lay leaders from the Social Justice Steering Committee, the Lake City Partners to End Homelessness team, and UUC’s Teen Feed meal team stepped forward upon learning that Tent City 3 didn’t have a host identified beginning in March 2023. Some who support this possibility stepped up more recently, and others have indicated an interest to engage if we go forward. Feel free to reach out to any of the following – Sallie Dacey, Dave Mentz, Debbie Maranville, David Kendall, Mary Mason, Cynthia Salzman, Laurie Mann or Pam Smith Mentz.

Questions or comments about our possible hosting of Tent City 3? Please contact Dave Mentz or Sallie Dacey.

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