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Some Residents Leave Tent City 4 in Kirkland in Dispute With Parent Group

The Seattle-based homeless group SHARE threatened to close the camp at St. John Vianney Church on Finn Hill unless certain residents left, so 20 or more planned to pack up and move to Lake Washington United Methodist Church on Rose Hill.

 

Some 20-25 residents were leaving Tent City 4 at St. John Vianney Church on Finn Hill in Kirkland Thursday in a dispute with the homeless camp’s Seattle-based parent group stemming from the arrest of a rape suspect there last week.

The residents were planning to move to, and were being welcomed by the pastor of, Lake Washington United Methodist Church across Kirkland on Rose Hill. They had tried to break away from the Seattle group SHARE/Wheel after leaders of that group objected to an agreement with the pastor of St. John Vianney to begin random checks for sex offenders.

That agreement came after Pierce County authorities with the help of Kirkland police last week arrested 35-year-old Robert Bruce McKay-Erskine, charged on Nov. 8 in Pierce County with aggravated first-degree child rape. Leaders of Tent City 4 agreed to do the random checks, and had already been doing background checks on residents, to the objections of SHARE officials, who apparently feel the checks are an invasion of privacy.

SHARE provides dumpsters, portable toilets and other supplies for the camp, and was the entity that had signed the agreement with St. John Vianney. Earlier this week it ordered several Tent City 4 residents to leave and said it would close the camp Thursday at 9 a.m.

Kirkland police arrived and some residents started packing up Thursday morning, but no one from SHARE had arrived by 10:45 a.m. Other residents of the camp decided to stay.

“Basically it's a dispute between some folks at the camp and SHARE, which says these folks have to leave or they’re going to shut down the camp,” said Kirkland Police Department spokesman Lt. Mike Murray. “So there is going to be a Tent City here and another there (at Lake Washington United Methodist). Our concern is that there was an issue about who owns what here. But it sounds like cooler heads are prevailing.”

Lake Washington United Methodist Pastor Kelly Dahlman-Oeth said his congregation was willing to take in those who wanted to leave Tent City 4, who were calling themselves Camp Unity Eastside, and was working with the City of Kirkland to make it happen.

He said SHARE leaders had emailed him to say they were coming to safeguard Tent City 4, and that after two days residents who wanted to return could, except a handful who would be banned.

“I understand there is a group prepared to go, and we will work with the city (of Kirkland) as quickly as possible,” the pastor said. “We know we are not following the city’s procedures. (But) I have a feeling this will play out over the next couple of days.”

Lake Washington United Methodist Church has hosted Tent City 4 twice before and was scheduled to host it again in January. The camp typically moves to congregations in various Eastside cities every 90 days.

Residents of the camp were divided. The basic issue was that many at the camp wanted to involve the church and community in camp meetings, and to continue background checks on residents for outstanding warrants and checks for sex offenders, while SHARE policy is apparently the opposite.

“There’s a split,” said one resident, John Pierce, who planned to leave. “I do not want to be part of SHARE. I want to stay here because it’s safe, and work with the church and the community.”

But he said if that was not possble, he would pack his things and go.

Another resident who declined to provide his name said he felt comfortable at Tent City 4 and was staying. “The people who are leaving have kind of been butting heads,” he said. “Maybe it will be more peaceful now. It’s not going to affect my program. I didn’t know the sex offender and I’m glad, I would rather stay away from them. At least I’m alive.”

Sandra Hunt, a supply coordinator for Tent City 4 through the Kirkland Interfaith Network (KIN), a group of congregations that that raises money for the camp, sympathized with those leaving. She said they had only tried to work with the church and community, and that SHARE leaders had become overbearing.

“This kind of thing makes these people feel voiceless,” she said. “I don’t like to see people powerless. The community and churches should be able to attend camp meetings. They’re being kicked out of what little they have here.”

  • For a previous Kirkland Patch story about the Tent City 4 dispute, click here.
  • For the story on the arrest of the rape suspect at Tent City 4, click here.

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Wendy November 16, 2012 at 09:23 PM
The voiceless and powerless are the people who actually live in this neighborhood. We have no say in the matter, and St. John's made that clear nine years ago. Why does SHARE get to call the shots here? We are the ones having to deal with incidents, and there are incidents everytime TC4 is in the neighborhood. They are just ignored. We are also the ones with kids walking to and from school every day, hoping nothing happens.
Finn Hill Resident November 16, 2012 at 09:52 PM
I couldn't agree more. There many acres of State and National forest land to house homeless camps. Why does it have to be in my neighborhood? Why not in the SHARE/WHEEL parking lot? Why ANY neighborhood where hard working, tax paying citizens live and pay for the infrastructure that the homeless encampments pay ZERO tax dollars towards.
TheGuyJustLikeYouWhoNowLivesInATent November 24, 2012 at 10:39 PM
You want to know why its in a neighborhood near you. Because the churches are the only ones legally able to host us. Plus you are talking about putting almost hundred people in the woods far away from the city. Those same people need to get around the city for work, medical and other issues. They are people just like you. No need to shuffle them off to some detention zone far away from people. Maybe you will understand if and when you lose your house and have to figure another way of making it on a daily basis. Yes, some people who live in the camps act out, but no violence or threat of violence is ever tolerated. And we left because we felt SHARE dropped the ball. There is a need for weekly offender checks Finn Hill Resident. you are talking about taxing homeless people. WOW. I know that someone who has the motivation to write such a moronic and trite statement wouldnt understand what it is like to be down and out. We aren't asking for a free handout, We are asking for a hand up. Evidently some people would rather kick a person while they are down.
Gail November 30, 2012 at 05:25 AM
Here's what shouts at me about the hypocrisy SHARE practices. The article says "after two days residents who wanted to return could, except a handful who would be banned." So SHARE is banning some HOMELESS individuals because SHARE doesn't like what they said. Pretty clear they don't care what happens to them because they didn't follow RULES. OMG, rules? Yup. How exactly is that different from the neighbors objecting to abnormal crime rates (crime = broken rules) and wanting more background checks? Just be honest SHARE, this is a BUSINESS for you and you'll do anything to perpetuate the scam. It's very simple - just obey the rules and conditions that make everyone welcome. What is so difficult to understand here? Dump SHARE and learn to get some backbone and not be lead by the nose. IOW, TheGuy.. is getting to be a person who recognized that SHARE is a hoax. It's obvious that simple extra conditions (like weekly checks) are needed to make everyone happy. Now why don't they want to do that? That's what everyone there needs to learn about life - there are rules. SHARE makes it sound as if they can ignore the community and live in some imaginary shell. Not a good lesson to teach. I gladly help and donate to anyone in real need, but not a sleight of hand organization like SHARE.
Cliff Elfstrom February 05, 2013 at 02:39 AM
I have some friends in Camp Unity Eastside that are looking to get back into the job market and back into self sufficiency. I wish them and those like them the best of luck in that endeavor. People under stress are more likely to act out than people with a secure living. And people with poor social skills tend to lose jobs more frequently. It is to their benefit to learn the rules of social interaction if they wish to return to productive living. Those that are incapable or unwilling will be better off with other kinds of help. But our current reality currently usually does not provide that help. So, homeless camps do end up being bottlenecks that collect those types of people. You can only help those who want help. Otherwise you are just wasting your time and resources. But we should help those who are in difficulty with the patience they need or require. I hope the CUE community attains the wisdom to walk that fine line.

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