by Andrew Walden
(Orig published July 15, 2010. Republished in Feb 2011 in response to a Star-Advertiser editorial endorsement of homeless tent cities. Republished again March 4, 2012 in respose to 3rd House reading of SB2594 SD2 which would have funded creation of homeless tent cities in all counties--it was rejected. Republished again March 17, 2013 in response to Honolulu Councilman Stanley Chang's $77M push for homeless tent cities all over Oahu. Hawaii: Here's what is coming....)
Calling it a “Safe Zone”, State Rep Tom Brower (D-Waikiki) wants to bring a Seattle-style homeless tent city to Kakaako. Rep. Rida Cabanilla, and Rep. John Mizuno agree.
Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann yesterday endorsed the idea of homeless camps--as along as they were run by a private contractor such as a non-profit.
HNN burbles: “Tent cities do exist on the mainland. One in Sacramento had to be closed down because of drugs and unrest, but Seattle has four successful homeless camps.”
Now we know where this “tent city” idea came from. But what is the real track record of Seattle’s “four successful homeless camps”?
Hawai’i Free Press found some answers and they aren’t pretty. Seattle’s tent cities are organizing bases for self-appointed activists who use the homeless to extract money and other benefits from various government agencies. The residents consist predominantly of methamphetamines addicts. They have also become a factional tool in Seattle politics used on behalf of Seattle politicians who give the organizers money and against those politicians who don’t. The camps are moved from one district to another to embarrass and extort politicians. Hannemann's requirement that such camps be run by private contractors could create the same situation in Hawaii.
This should make Rep Tom Brower’s proposal for a homeless camp at Kakaako—or anywhere near Waikiki--especially alarming to the tourism industry. Seattle’s story tells tourism officials exactly what they can expect from these camps and their organizers.
Moreover, the proposal for the City or State to establish such camps formally and legally—as opposed to the informal camps which have existed for years—should be seen as a mechanism to create expensive obligations by the City and State to the camps. These obligations will then be satisfied by payments for alleged “services” to the camps’ organizers’ “non-profit” groups while the meth-addicted residents get little to no treatment, counseling, or help.
The Seattle Times May 7, 2004 explains how the homelessness industry uses tent cities:
The organizers of tent city, SHARE/WHEEL, want to extract from local government more money and services for their clients. Tent city is part of a strategy. It makes their clients visible. It says to the taxpayers, "Here we are. If you don't like us in tents, put us in buildings."
Organizers showed their political face when they threatened to start an illegal camp in a county park. Avoiding that embarrassment is why County Executive Ron Sims' office made the deal so quickly on the Brickyard Park and Ride. It would have been a done deal if so many neighbors had not gone to a meeting with Councilwoman Carolyn Edmonds and booed her.
East Side King County, Washington residents have organized themselves to counter the influence of the SHARE/WHEEL homelessness industry group which parachutes the roving homeless camps into their communities often without notice. They tell their story on line at: http://tentcitysolutions.com. We have re-posted some of the excerpts:
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The Truth and Fiction on SHARE (Lies told by Homelessness Industry)
Q. "Come on down any time and look at our books" - Leo Rhodes SHARE Director
A. In fact you can not come down "anytime" to see their books. After weeks of promises and missed appointments SHARE finally allowed very limited access to some information, but not all required by law. Now they are complaining in public that they shouldn't have to open their books. (Comment: Makes you wonder what they are trying to hide, doesn't it?)
Q. We have never had a complaint for a violation of our code of conduct
A. This is one of their biggest lies. SHARE's complaint process requires you to call a voicemail box and leave a message. We know of at least 12 complaints filed in Bothell and not one of them ever was followed up on. Most of these complaints were then brought up at the Sunday meetings and when they were SHARE refused to address them and ended the meetings.
Q. They refer to themselves as "Share/Wheel"
A. They refer to themselves as "Share/Wheel" which is to reference a joint venture between two groups: "Seattle Housing and Resource Effort" and "Women's Housing Equality and Enhancement League " While the first is registered with the State of Washington the later does not exist as a legal entity. There is no "Share/Wheel" only "SHARE"
Q. Tent City is a Drug and Alcohol Free Zone. Those caught will be asked to leave.
A. The key word is "Caught"... The reality is that what you do in your Tent stays in your Tent. In Bothell four campers were caught using "Meth" in the Security Tent WHILE ON DUTY.
Former Tent City residents report to us that drinking and drug use are rampant in Tent City.
Residents of the Bothell and Finn Hill Communities report that many of the campers retreat to the surrounding neighborhood to do their drinking. One case worker reported witnessing a Tent City resident spending days in his tent using Meth non-stop.
Near every Tent City 4 site retail stores report record levels of shoplifting with the prime targets being cold medicines used to produce meth. Many reported having to pull the product off the shelves to prevent its theft.
Q. Any Violence will not be tolerated
A. SHARE is so concerned about their ability to claim that they never have any problems that when acts of violence are committed in camp they work hard to cover them up. One such case had a man hitting a women over the head with a chair in camp.
Q. No women in the men's tents, no men in the women's tents.
A. SHARE wants you to think that this means that there is no "co-habitation" occurring in TC4. In fact that is not the case, there are community Men’s and Women’s tents, but Couples, married or not, are given 50% more space so they may share a tent together. With body heat being a primary heating source "Tent hopping" is a common occurrence.
Q. Leo Rhodes, claims that 70% of the campers have jobs.
A. This is a deliberate attempt to give people the impression that Tent City residents are "the working poor" that simply can't afford a place to live. SHARE does not keep records on who works and who doesn't. Few are employed at regular jobs. Most that do work get day labor jobs from time to time.
Q. When asked at public meetings how many campers move on to permanent housing Leo Rhodes claims numbers in the 80-90 percent range.
A. SHARE is very clear in pointing out that this is not a transitional program. They offer no assistance to campers and keep no records to track who moves on to stable housing. However anyone who has watched the camp since it's creation in May of 2004 will see that the majority of the campers are the same ones living there when the camp was created. This "core group" of campers are actually "squatters" and not "homeless".
Q. The average stay by a camper is less than 2 weeks.
A. Again, SHARE keeps no records to document length of stay. Some campers have been living in Tent City for years and are quoted in the paper as saying they prefer the rent free lifestyle of Tent City. SHARE Director, Leo Rhodes, is often quoted as having lived in Tent City "A few months" when in fact he is a permanent resident of Tent City 4, and before that Tent City 3. The latest instance of Leo stating this lie was in a Nov 2, 2005 Seattle Times Article where he claims to have "lived in tent cities off and on for a year".
Leo has a bad memory as he was caught in this lie in May of this year when he testified to the King County Council that he had only lived in Tent City "a few months". A King County Council member quizzed him until he admitted living in Tent City since moving to Seattle 5 years ago.
Q. Tent City 4 must exist on the Eastside in order to serve their homeless problem.
A. Yes, there are homeless on the Eastside, but the communities have done a great job of servicing the vast majority of them. It's a myth that Tent City 4 exists for them. Few of the campers there have last permanent address's on the Eastside. In Bothell the vast majority of campers were not even from Washington State.
The "One Night Count" reported 137 homeless on the Eastside however 95 of them were living in Tent City, many of them imported from Portland, or recruited in Seattle, to pad the total for the count. (See ad on the documents list)
Q. "It's only for 90 days" (or 100 as in Woodinville, or 93 as in Finn Hill)
A. Tent City may stay for 90 days, but they leave behind a significant number of campers when they move.
In both Bothell and Woodinville a couple dozen did not move on to the next site. They develop ties in the area and then have to find places to live such as those that have moved illegally into the Brickyard Site.
This seeding of the Homeless onto the Eastside is part of Anitra Freeman's (SHARE President) agenda. To have panhandlers in places you never saw them before you will see "The face of homelessness" and, they think, will generate compassion for their cause.
Q. Leo Rhodes, just a camper?
A. Leo likes to introduce himself as a Tent City resident who has lived there for "A short while", "a few months", "off and on for about a year", and has lied to State Senators about his status as a PERMANENT Resident of Tent City.
Leo is a SHARE BOARD MEMBER, writes the checks for SHARE, and has lived in TC4 since day 1 in May 2004, and Tent City 3 before that. A simple Google search shows Leo representing SHARE as far back as 2001. Don't be fooled, Leo RUNS Tent City 4, he is not just a resident.
Q. SHARE claims that "We always keep our promises"
A. This is completely untrue. SHARE picks and chooses which commitments it abides by. When forced to leave Bellevue for 1 year by a court ordered settlement they decided to move to Woodinville without permits in violation of a legal contract they signed promising never to do so. Part of their reason they used for this action was that they could not return to Kirkland for at least a year because of an agreement they signed there. Apparently they only feel obligated to keeping their most recent agreements.
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Crime and Tent City
Crime a problem, or not?
Of all the issues surrounding Tent City 4 the biggest is that of crime. SHARE and the Churches stand tall and proclaim in front of the media and lawmakers that "There has never been a problem with Tent City". They say it so often, and the media reports what they say verbatim, that many people actually believe that to be the case.
Tracking the crime is a difficult thing to do. Bothell made it a point to track contacts associated with Tent City, but unless they have contact with the suspect often they have no way of knowing if a crime was associated with Tent City or not.
Retail stores see an increase in "suspicious activity" ranging from shoplifting, panhandling, loitering, and people returning items that had been donated to the camp in order to get money. Seldom do these cause a police contact and as such wouldn't be tracked. Merchants see a multitude of effects that do not ever get reported. Decreases in certain types of customers, increases in beer sales, shoplifting of drugs used to make meth, all of which coincide with the camp locating in their area.
Homeowners see mail theft, items missing from their yard, car prowls, beer bottles and drug paraphernalia left in their bushes or on their patios and porches. Often the police are not contacted, and if they are they do not have a suspect in custody, so the incident would never be associated with Tent City.
The community knows however that it is as these incidents increase when the camp is in the area and decline after it leaves. Is it Tent City residents? Is it camp "rejects"? Is it an organized crime ring hitting the areas Tent City is in to defer the blame?
There is a significant amount of crime inside tent city. Campers steal from one another, use drugs and alcohol, and have other problems. SHARE deals with this internally to prevent there being documented.
King County Sheriff reports increase in crime
Despite claims to the contrary crime in Finn Hill has increased during Tent City 4's stay just as it did in Bothell and Woodinville.
As reported by the King County Sheriff's office - For the period of Nov. 20 to Feb. 10 vs the same period in 2003:
- Residential burglaries up 300%
- Auto theft up 100%
- Assault, fourth degree up 60%
- Vandalism up 50%
- Mail theft and other types of crime that were not documented by the King County Sheriff were also significant in the area.
- Area business's have also seen increases in crimes ranging from shoplifting to armed robbery.
Finn Hill reports of crime
Residents of the Finn Hill area reported rampant mail theft (Christmas Cards, and the cash that may be in them, being the prime target), littering in ditches showing drug and alcohol use, car prowls, and many other problems. Due to the remote location and lack of city police (Finn Hill is in Unincorporated King County) calls to 911 to report these crimes resulted in calls being routed to other agencies at King County and little documentation.
Businesses surrounding the Finn Hill area reported huge increases in shoplifting. A major target being cold medicines used to manufacture meth. Losses were so great that one major chain had to pull the drugs from the shelves during the rest of the stay.
Interesting enough all these problems stopped in this area after TC4 relocated to Kirkland and the following year saw no such increases during the same time frame.
Woodinville Police Activity up during TC4 stay
As reported by the Woodinville Police Department crime during the period TC4 stayed on City Land versus the same period the year before:
- Robbery - Increased 300%
- Sex Offense - 2 incidents (none the previous year)
- Controlled Substance - Increased 100%
- Burglary - Increased 269% (Commercial went from 12 to 34)
- Auto Theft/Attempts - Increased 61% (From 16 - 26)
- Suspicious Activity - Increased 19%
- Hit and Run - Increased 42%
It should also be noted that a Tent City resident hot wired a bulldozer and leveled the Barber Shop that was awaiting asbestos removal.
30 day snapshot of crime in Bothell
Since early June 2004:
- June 19: At least one camp resident was ejected for causing a disturbance. A married couple were involved. The wife was wanted on a felony escape warrant. The original charge against her was for forgery. She was booked into the King County Jail.
- June 24: Tent City 4 security ejected two residents, one for being disruptive and the other for being under the influence of alcohol. Bothell police arrested the second person for drunken driving.
- June 26: A Bothell police officer heard a scream from the camp and discovered that a man had allegedly tried to slap and choke his pregnant wife. The man was arrested.
- July 1: Four camp residents were kicked out. One person was wanted on a felony warrant for escaping from community custody, which was because of a drug-possession conviction.
- July 5: A male camp resident reportedly picked on an African American man at Tent City 4. The man claimed to be a white supremacist and Ku Klux Klan member and used a racial epithet in front of Bothell police. Camp security kicked the man out.
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Recap of Tent City 4's tour of the Eastside. Each item is linked to the community page for that stay and items are sorted in order most recent to oldest.
Bellevue - North Towne - Jan 2006
St Luke’s Lutheran Church, home of SHARE spokesperson Bill Kirlin-Hackett, hosted TC4 at their Bellevue way location in north Bellevue until its move to Woodinville May 13th 2006.
Crossroads - Nov 16, 2005
Testing the new Bellevue code that protects the homeless and community Temple B'nai Torah became host of the less then 40 campers of TC4. In order to force a violation of the permit additional homeless were imported to stay at the camp. A lawsuit was filed against the City of Bellevue in an attempt to further the church councils political agenda behind the existence of TC4.
Cottage Lake - August 17, 2005
In the first test of the "rules" enacted drafted by Carolyn Edmonds, and forced through the council process in May, TC 4 relocated to Woodinville Unitarian Church. The test was a complete failure as DDES determined that no permit was required by the new "rules" and TC4 was allowed to locate in this rural community without public process or input.
Rose Hill - May 20, 2005
After a year of roaming the Eastside TC4 finally is hosted by their "Home Church". Lake Washington United Methodist which orchestrated the 6 month stay in Kirkland (despite the objections of TC4's support group) crafted a program to deny their community any input into the process and aided by the Kirkland Mayor was able to suspend city laws in order to stay in this remote location.
Kirkland - Feb 19, 2005
Aided by Kirkland Mayor Mary Alice Burleigh, who helped with planning an implementing their violation of Kirkland law, TC4 moved to Kirkland Congregational Church. Despite the release (via public disclosure) of documents showing the Mayors illegal activities the City Atty refused to investigate or consider charges. Once again we saw elected officials refusing to aid those they were elected to represent and the community once again was forced to go to court to get yet another order requiring the conditions previously imposed on the camp to be applied.
The Kirkland City council then took the amazing step of suspending city laws to enable the camp to stay in Kirkland 6 consecutive months despite the community outrage at their lack of leadership.
Factoria - Jan 30, 2005
Aldersgate United Methodist Church voted on January 30th not to host TC4 citing crime problems with the camp, concern for the neighborhood, and respecting the concerns of the 150 families with children in their PreSchool. The churches compassion for the homeless was a motivating factor in their decision to get involved in effective solutions for the homeless.
Holly Cross Lutheran Church who had leadership considering hosting TC4 for some time soon thereafter, due to concerns by the local schools, daycares, and church membership, decided not to host the camp as well.
Finn Hill - Nov 20, 2005
Once again Tent City attempts to force themselves into a community without a permit, and once again the local community is abandon by the elected body that is supposed to represent them. In this case King County refused to take any action on behalf of the community and as a result the community was forced to do the counties job and get a court order putting the same restrictions on the camp that they had been ordered by the court to adhere to at the previous sites.
Crime in Finn Hill was a major problem as there was no local police presence. Mail theft, car vandalism, panhandling, public drug dealing and noise issues occurred uncontrolled. The remote location also caused many problems with poor lighting, sidewalks, and almost non-existent bus service.
Woodinville - August 17, 2005
Woodinville Alliance Church, after researching SHARE and taking the responsible action of involving the community, voted against hosting the roving squatters camp and became involved in REAL solutions to homelessness.
Faced with being rejected everywhere they went SHARE cut a last minute deal with Northshore United Unitarian Church to host Tent City 4 in their storm water retention pond in a rural area across the street from 2 schools. The City of Woodinville, faced with this inappropriate location, offered up a large undeveloped park and allowed Tent City 4 to stay there for 100 days.
Bothell - May 17, 2005
On Friday, when faced with losing the Brickyard site, Ron Sims cut a midnight deal with St Brendans Parish in Bothell and without notice to the city it was announced that Tent City 4 would be created in Bothell without a permit on Monday.
Brickyard - May 6, 2005
The wetlands next to the 'Brickyard Park and Ride Lot" is the site that Ron Sims attempted to use as a location for Tent City 4.
Due to the efforts of this group the site was prevented from being used. As a result TC4 ended up in Bothell from May 17th until August 14th.
Work is continuing with the County in hopes of preventing the Brickyard site from ever being used.