Tent City 4 Splitting From Parent Group in Fallout of Rape Suspect's Arrest

Residents of the camp for homeless people now located at Kirkland's St. John Vianney Church say the parent group SHARE objected to an agreement with the church to do random checks for sex offenders after the arrest of a child rape suspect.


The fallout over the arrest of a rape suspect at Tent City 4 has led to a split between its Seattle-based parent organization SHARE and residents of the homeless camp now located at Kirkland’s St. John Vianney Church.

SHARE, or Seattle Housing and Resource Effort, objected to an agreement residents of the camp made with parish officials to begin random weekly checks for sex offenders, according to camp residents. The pact was made after police last week arrested at the camp 35-year-old Robert Bruce McKay-Erskine, charged on Nov. 8 in Pierce County with aggravated first-degree child rape.

Sandra Hunt of Kirkland, who with her husband Randy Hunt serves as supply coordinator for the camp, said residents had asked her to notify the media of the split and a change in the name of the camp. Henceforth it will be named Camp Unity Eastside.

Hunt said SHARE, founded and run by homeless and formerly homeless people in Seattle, has never agreed with Tent City’s background checks and its policy to report to police any resident found to be subject to an outstanding warrant.

“They feel it’s an invasion of privacy,” she said. “The reason (residents) have split from SHARE is the camp feels it needs to work directly with the church and community. Tent City doesn’t want that type of person in the camp either. They want to be safe and be good neighbors in the community.”

SHARE, which helped establish Tent City on the Eastside several years ago, has a somewhat different version of events, as posted on its web site here. It will arrive at the camp, based at St. John Vianney on Finn Hill until January 21, to remove its equipment and facilities. The SHARE web site said it will “close” the camp and residents will be “required to leave the premises by 9 AM Thursday morning, November 15.” It added that SHARE “will cease any association or support for this encampment.”

But it appears the residents have no intention of leaving.

“It’s in our interests to be good neighbors and maintain a good relationship with the host church,” one camp official who asked not to be identified said Wednesday.

Hunt said SHARE provides the camp with a dumpster, portable toilets and a cell phone, and originally provided tents as well. Hunt said food and other supplies are provided to Tent City 4 by the Kirkland Interfaith Network, a group of congregations supported by donations and civic groups.

Kirkland Patch is attempting to reach Father Ramon Santa Cruz, the pastor of the Catholic parish, who last week sent a letter to neighbors of the church on Finn Hill about the arrest and the agreement to do random checks for sex offenders. Patch will update this story when he replies.

Hunt said Tent City 4 residents are aware of neighbors’ concerns about the arrest and other issues neighbors have raised. She said the camp, which provides its own security, is open to anyone 24 hours a day. Residents welcomed this reporter to the camp on Wednesday to take photos.

About 100 people currently reside at the camp, which moves every 90 days to various congregations in Eastside cities, including Redmond, Bellevue and Woodinville. Tent City 4 has been at St. John Vianney five times since 2004, as well as at least two other Kirkland churches.

"They're really afraid," said Hunt. "These are people who have very little. They're asking, 'If they close the camp, where will I pitch my tent? Where will I lay my head?'"

Kirkland police say that in general, they experience very few issues with residents of the camp.

Saira V. November 19, 2012 at 05:38 PM
Are there now 2 Tent Cities in Kirkland? As I understand the Ron Simms compact between King County and the homeless, there shall be at least 25 miles distance between encampments. How does Kirkland get around to violating the King County codes? In my mind the city is becoming party to community terrorism by failing to follow King County codes.
Greg Johnston (Editor) November 19, 2012 at 05:53 PM
Yes, two now: http://kirkland.patch.com/articles/some-residents-leave-tent-city-4-in-kirkland-in-dispute-with-parent-group
Saira V. November 19, 2012 at 06:20 PM
Greg, thanks for the clarification. The question remains how did the city handle existing ordinances to allow more than one encampment. I would bet that most of the readers did not realize that only 1 encampment is permitted at a time unless separated by 25 miles. I didn't see any schedules for temporary encampment code ammendments on the agendas for either Kirkland or King County councils.
Greg Johnston (Editor) November 19, 2012 at 06:25 PM
Saira, it's such a recent development the subject likely did not make the official agenda, issued last week. But there is a council meeting Tuesday night and I'm sure it will come up. I know the city and some council members area aware of and working on the situation.
Lynn B November 19, 2012 at 07:20 PM
What happened to due process? We cannot get a construction permit for a deck expedited and I am sure that if we proceeded with construction without the permit that there would be consequences. I am sure that some will say this formation of two camps is an emergency; however, per the story it simply is nothing more than a squabble between church, campers, and camp leadership--not an emergency.
Kirkland Tony November 19, 2012 at 09:54 PM
Nancy, what portions of the report were biased? Without additional data, your response seems to be, well, merely biased. ;)
Kirkland Tony November 19, 2012 at 09:58 PM
Dale wrote, "I understand the fear that people might have, but it seemed that people who had a structured place to live, where there was hope and help, that they would be less likely to commit crimes." The correlation between poverty and crime is lower than the correlation between being from a broken (single parent) family and crime. So it's prejudicial to state that helping the homeless will reduce crime; you insult their character down to the level of desparate animal that way. But there's a bigger point. I don't live in Bell Town or Federal Way for a reason. Kirkland is expensive, but that comes with low crime and other benefits. I do help the homeless, but not by bringing them into my home or my neighborhood.
Twistedlimbs November 20, 2012 at 08:41 AM
No, not an emergency...just a bunch of human beings caught in the middle of said squabble who need a place to sleep. In November. Are you really comparing wanting a deck permit with being so desperate for a place to sleep in the sogginess possible weather that you'd sleep in a tent? Shame on you.
Jessdine November 20, 2012 at 09:11 AM
I just moved to the area. I have lived all over the country. I am FURIOUS that I am paying a fortune in rent so my six year old can go to a good school and to find out a homeless encampment is a block away from her school for three months! Are you serious? A child molester was picked up from there? Are you people insane? I am all for helping people but that is easy to do if it isn't next to your house or risking your child. I have dealt with homeless people every place I have lived. I know there are good people who have hit it hard. Trust me. I know. But this traveling into new areas seems crazy to me. In stead of spending money on road shows, create shelters. I believe sex offenders can't live near schools but some organization is upset about doing back ground check on a "tent city" blocks from an elementary school? Seriously? This is just crazy. I moved here to keep my children safe. I did a full sex offender search of the entire area to see who was registered. I am not a fanatic, I just wanted to establish in an area with little or no offenders. Silly me! Why look when a church can bring almost one hundred people to live next door! I can't believe more people aren't outraged.
Sara C November 20, 2012 at 05:46 PM
Jessdine, yes, many of us were up in arms when it came to our neighborhood(s) years ago. Now, I think many of us feel defeated and frustrated (as Jane stated) as it is no longer up for discussion with the community. I grew up here, lived all over the country for 8 years and returned home to settle-down. For the exact same reasons you stated you moved here. I don't know why Nancy insists on being nasty toward you, please know this is not standard for our community. Regardless, welcome to Kirkland. :)
Twistedlimbs November 20, 2012 at 06:01 PM
I am a renter and have never had to submit more than a credit report.
Kirkland Tony November 20, 2012 at 06:44 PM
And money. Lots and lots of money. The tent city dwellers submit neither.
Saira V. November 20, 2012 at 09:23 PM
Jane E, I agree 100% with your response. Some of the biggest advocates for tent cities are people who don't really have a clue, are naive, idealists who would not host a tent city resident in their own house let alone, inside their own church. IOW.....Hypocrites.
Twistedlimbs November 21, 2012 at 12:53 AM
Share Wheel does warrant checks and sex offender checks. That's more than my landlord did on me.
Saira V. November 21, 2012 at 09:30 PM
Twisted, it is customary to hold temporary use permit requirements to different set of standards than those imposed on permitted uses. For example, a church in the middle of a quiet neighborhood impacts traffic and noise. In order for the church to build in an area not zoned for churches (ie. single family neighborhood), it must notify the surrounding neighbors of its intent, receive inputs and draft mitigations to make the non-conforming use more acceptable by way of stipulated conditions around hours of operation, parking, and noise threshold limits. Most churches hold such conditional permits that allow them to reside in neighborhoods so bringing in a temporary outdoor encampment violates their conditions or at the very least requires some modification to approved conditions. If the neighbors and host feel that ID checks are a condition for approving a non-conforming activity then it is the role of the sponsoring church to require ID checks. It is a very simple concept, but one that homeless advocates raise as a civil rights violation which it is clearly not.
Saira V. November 21, 2012 at 09:44 PM
The way I see it, church hosts for tent city have not obeyed the laws of their respective cities and zoning. There should be applications to city staff requesting temporary hosting of tent city that outlines the mitigation taken to prevent adverse conditions of noise, traffic, and safety. These applications need to be noticed via bulletin board adjacent church property and seek mitigation feed back from neighbors within at least 500 feet of the property. Agreements must be approved BEFORE the camp moves in.
Saira V. November 21, 2012 at 10:26 PM
Your neighbor's parties don't go on 24-7 for 90 days, laws apply already to your neighbor.
frank November 27, 2012 at 07:06 AM
from the otherside... how about an individual that works 2 jobs, half of that goes in child support, the rest to bills to fix credit report in order to get into housing. Say making 1500 a month to start, 750 gone for child support, bad credit still wont get you into housing with that, so you spend every dime to get caught up, thanking whoever you believe in for tent city so that this isn't hanging over your head forever, then getting torn apart by the communities you go into. Things go both ways. Tent city and now Camp Unity is in your neighborhood, how about doing away with the rumors and coming down to see for yourself?
Saira V. November 27, 2012 at 05:25 PM
Tent City and most hosts do nothing to facilitate a hand up to people such as those described by Frank. People like the one described by Frank would be easy work for a service worker to assist and it's a travesty that tent city does nothing to route these folks out of their camp--in fact, the TC sponsors have banned community groups who offer counseling from entry to the camps. Frank, please direct your person to Congregations for the Homeless for information to their services or list of contacts who may be helpful.
frank November 27, 2012 at 07:40 PM
you want an individual to move from a place that allows them to sleep and eat during the day in order to work nights to a program that is only for sleeping at night... You want an individual to quit a night job to sleep in your shelter and live at crossroads mall or the library during the day? You want an individual who has a bit of personal privacy in their tent to go sleeping on a mat in a room with 30 other individuals. You again are under the assumption that these individuals need handouts. That obviously there was or is something wrong with them. How about we start hospitals that when you go, you get an MRI, cat scan, full body xray, and then have the doctors tell you that your arm is broke, when you were fully conscious and aware of the issue... Being forced to participate in a counseling program for employment, just because you have under 20 hours, or be ineligible for your housing, or being required to go to a case manager meeting with an individual who has no idea as to what is actually going on, or be ineligible for your housing, is no better than the forced meetings at SHARE that Camp Unity just split from. Tent city does not have those programs true, but Camp Unity is not tent city and is in the news now with support from community and churches doing just that.
Saira V. November 27, 2012 at 08:45 PM
I'm talking about programs aimed at eliminating the need for temporary shelter by providing a pathway to more traditional residences with heat, electricity, running water, toilets, showers and kitchens. Frank, the situation that you describe is one in which one person may not be able to afford traditional rental arrangements. What if an organization could match that person with another in a similar situation where a cost-sharing opportunity exists? This active engagement is a responsible approach to working with homelessness that tent cities and hosts do not undertake. Instead the status quo of church hosts and tent city operators believe that warehousing these people is best that can be done and leads to hopeless, homeless.
frank November 27, 2012 at 10:04 PM
What if there were those programs.. They exist. The homeless communicate, better than many neighbors. They are aware of many programs that are, and if those programs work great they are on it. You are failing to mention the 3 year waiting lists for many of them, or again the strictures each shelter program has to assist people, and only the people going through their shelters. The lack of support from the leadership of the shelter programs for each other is a terrible thing. Each program is "The best". For who? If these programs were the best, then why do the homeless move from one to the other, why do they, the ones that are supposed to be getting assistance that works, feel like they are not? The various programs may be the best for that demographic of homeless, may actually work for them or noone would be going. However its not right to have a shelter that is not working for you, refuse to even mention any program outside of their support. Are you including all church hosts in this status quo? Was it not just on the news that these churches supporting Camp Unity wished to do this and that one individual organization refused to allow it. Do the churches that host CFH fall into your status quo? Any shelter program can be called a warehouse in some form, 50 people in 1 room on mats, or 100 people in tents... Its what the program does for the people that makes the difference. Lets now just hope Camp Unity actually grows as they claim, and there is a betterment
Saira V. November 28, 2012 at 05:44 AM
Frank, there are serious issues to be worked through with each individual. Contrary to the mantra of "just bad luck", "one bad break", or similar that every homeless person that I've spoken to provides, finding oneself homeless is often the result of a pattern of bad decisions. We all make bad decisions at least once and there would be a lot more homelessness if that were all it took. Breaking the cycle of poor decisions, I believe, requires professional intervention and more than expecting campers to resolve their own problems amongst themselves. Host churches and camp organizers who do nothing are fueling the conflict and not helping. Good luck.
Jessdine November 28, 2012 at 06:58 AM
1) Can you imagine moving to a new area and one of the first things you read is about a tent city that is two blocks from your child's elementary school? A place where a man has been arrested for Molesting a Six year old girl? How would you respond? 2) I have lived in Spanish Harlem and Marin City. I loved both areas. I have worked so that MY children don't have to experince that as children. I would rather them not know "Tony the Heroin addict" that lives on our stoop. He likes sharing my deli sandwiches and watches out for me when I get home. Or the drug dealer that is renting the section 8 housing next to us bringing in guns. No. Not something I WANT my kids exposed to. Not something I want any kid exposed to. 3) I guess you have never rented. They do a back ground check. Credit isn't the only thing you list. 4) Obviously you are passionate about this. Can you imagine the good you could do? Instead of being rude, mean and abusive. Your resposne to me was WAY over the top. You could have taken the high road and given me facts. I did that on my own. You see, I wrote this because I was outraged. I went out and asked other because I wanted to know more. Instead of attacking me and mocking me you could have taken an opportunity to help me understand why they are here. Tent cities are not common across the country. I still think there are some flaws in them but I will continue to educate myself. Not attack "neighbors"
Dale Knapinski November 28, 2012 at 03:58 PM
Get the facts. Only about 10% of sexual crimes against children are committed by strangers. The majority, about 60%, are committed by regular acquaintances like babysitters, coaches, and other people that are familiar to, and who have regular contact with the victim. Perpetrators are usually known to the parents, and parents would have ample opportunity to regulate who their children have contact with. About 30% of victims are related to the perpetrator, most often a brother, father, uncle or cousin. Being wary of strangers, like residents of Tent City, is certainly a concern. But since 90% of cases of child sexual abuse happen in the victims own home or with people that are in the circle of the victim’s friends and acquaintances, it’s more important to keep better tabs on your own family members and close friends than the stranger living in a tent a few blocks away. I'm not saying that you shouldn't be concerned about strangers, I'm just saying that you need to keep things in perspective. If you want to blame Tent City for causing child rape, give them 10% blame, and take the other 90% home with you.
JuneGloom November 28, 2012 at 04:33 PM
i've never rented in the last 20 years without submitting to a background check.
Twistedlimbs November 28, 2012 at 05:58 PM
People who make/have made poor decisions still need a place to sleep. Frank outlined a whole lot of reasons the shelter system is inadequate, and while the tent-shelter situation isn't a perfect solution, I challenge you to find something that will solve all of homelessness. Good luck.
Saira V. November 29, 2012 at 03:44 AM
I'm just pointing out that the homeless community in a tent city are not in positions to make strong morally based decisions in their compromised state--other needs such as they are trump their ability to request and receive professional help . The hosts of a tent city do have the ability to positively impact their guests and they do not. It's an abusive cycle in which the host organizations fail their moral obligations in full view of their communities, they lose trust and respect, and ultimately even their membership abandons them as we have seen with several Catholic congregations over the past 3 years.
Saira V. November 29, 2012 at 03:48 AM
Helping the homeless by supporting tent cities is about as fruitful as Obama's promise to deliver Hope and Change--idealistically, great concepts and motives yet failed in the execution process.
frank November 29, 2012 at 04:55 AM
I am sorry you feel the way you do Saira. I pity those that have to work with you and thus make you the verification of my statement that many who claim to support the homeless, truly do not understand.


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