Monday, March 6, 2017

Updated: Where are all the homeless tents?

Since writing this piece it appears the screening around the tent is partially removed from the tents.  I saw Dan in his orange vest walking the sidewalk picking up litter so his job is more than security.    

I live only a quarter mile from the St. Jude homeless encampment and walk by there often. Where are all the tents? The western parking lot is almost empty and in years past the lot was always full. What's going on?  Aren't we in a crisis?

With mild trepidation, I approached Dan, an encampment resident to try to understand the dearth of tents.  Dan is a nice guy and articulate and very graciously offered to give me a tour of the facility.

Dan wears a City of Redmond safety vest
while on security duty.  
We found only 16 tents in the "village" -- 2 of of them were empty -- and there was space for five others. My goodness!  He said most of the homeless prefer shelters where the "facilities" are nicer;

Dan said the corrupt Camp Unity board was purged last year and their new leadership is running a very tight ship. Once the "applicants" pass a warrant check, breathalyzer, and upon presenting an I.D. they are  registered and can move in.  Camp Unity charges them $30/month in dues.  It almost seems like a club. If you don't have the money they'll take cashed-in food stamps.

Dan emphasized the "crazies" and the drug infested homeless live in Bellevue's "low barrier" encampment where they'll take anyone.  He was little concerned about heroin.

For job and other personal assistance a case worker visits the encampment.  The camp (village) is on a bus line and residents have bikes to get to employers. Dan bikes down to the library. Recently a church donated a large van.  I asked if the van could transport residents to Home Depot to find day labor; Dan thought long and hard but didn't respond. If you listen to the YouTube clip, the need of WiFi for jobs and affordable housing is a high priority over community supplied food, blankets and clothing.

Bob Yoder, opinion

St. Jude hosts a car camp in the parking lot next to Camp Unity.  According to Dan, about 4-12 cars are parked there at night and the parish runs this camp.  Dinner is served inside every evening for all the homeless on site.  


Emily Johnson said...

Great info. Thanks for the video. I've donated to this encampment both when they are at St. Judes and when they've been at my own church Lake WA UMC in Kirkland, but I had never seen inside. Glad to see they have such a nice place, but also that many are apparently finding indoor shelter.
Hope they can get internet soon. It shows how much of a vital resource internet access is in today's world. Our society would do well to make sure all members have good access to high-speed internet service.

Brian Hansford said...

I am encouraged to learn about the Camp Unity re-org and hope the new regime keeps the standards tight. The citizen scrutiny and pressure on the City has hopefully sent a strong message that if we are going down the path of compassion, we need to have accountability. I am still skeptical of the outcomes and whether TC residents will find, accept, or keep jobs and thus transition into more permanent housing. I am hopeful the surrounding residents don't have the same negative experiences from past TC's. The City downplayed the drug problem regardless of the statistics they liked to spew about while not listening to experiences form neighboring residents. I will continue to watch this very closely, along with the continued problem of the teenage travelers that flock to our city.