Probably not many cities are really eager to bring in something like Tent City. But they have to be somewhere, and after a decision today by the Washington Supreme Court in Woodinville v. Northshore United Church of Christ, they have fewer ways to block them. Not none, but fewer.
Tent City 4 is a development of two Seattle homeless advocacy groups, SHARE and WHEEL (we'll pass on the long run-out of the acronyms). It has put together tent city places for homeless people: "portable, self-managed communities of up to 100 homeless men and women." It describes them:
SHARE/WHEEL's Tent Cities are democratically organized. They operate with a strict Code of Conduct which requires sobriety, nonviolence, cooperation and participation. Security workers are on duty 24 hours a day. Litter patrols are done on a daily basis.
Tent Cities provide their own trash removal and port-a-potties. Bus tickets are provided to each participant each day so s/he can get to work or appointments. There is a food preparation area. Volunteers bring hot meals most evenings to both Tent Cities.
Tent Cities are needed because there is not enough indoor shelter for all who need it in King County. Tent Cities provide a safe place to leave your belongings, flexible hours for workers, and the ability for couples to stay together.
Tent City 4 was set up for the east side of King County, and has moved around from place to place, about once every three months. It depends, as the Supreme Court decision said, on property owners willing to donate the space for that time. In 2006 SHARE/WHEEL asked Northshore United Church of Christ if it would donate the space, and the church agreed. At which point the city of Woodinville, from which it needed a temporary use permit, responded that because it had in place a land use moratorium - to put a hold on development - the church was denied the permit. The church protested; the Court of Appeals upheld the city; the church appealed, in part, on freedom of religion grounds.
The Supreme Court agreed with the church. A slice of its reasoning here is wel worth the read: (more…)