On August 16, a group of advocates for the unhoused met with a representative from Senator Patty Murray’s office, Kierra Phifer. The advocates, members of the Tent City Tacoma development team and allies from Seattle SHARE/WHEEL came to discuss with Senator Murray’s office the question of homelessness in Tacoma and how an organized tent city (OTC) can provide a partial solution. Liz Falconer made a compelling video about this meeting and the experience of the homeless in Tacoma.
We discussed changing the meeting time to weekly, and we chose Wednesday, 4 to 5:30, beginning Aug 26, 2015. Provisionally, we will meet at the Rescue Mission, and we will try to hand out these leaflets. Neal will work on them, and Bud says he has a black-and-white laser and can print them. Sam, Marvin, Sunny, and Stephanie from Seattle will come to as many of these meetings as possible. We will try to involve the homeless in these meetings.
We talked about fundraising. Cindy will talk to Cornerstone, where she has an account. She will find out if it is possible to set up some way for Alan to integrate a donate button on the website. Cheryl will check into setting up a sub account under her religious organization “Serenity Love.” Alan will look into 3rd-party vendors. For material donations, we need to talk to Pastor Nina of Bethlehem Lutheran Church. It is possible that Spaceworks Tacoma may be able to help us with a storage space.
BUSINESS: This morning, a group of our core developers, as well as people from Seattle SHARE/WHEEL, met with Kierra Phifer, assistant to Senator Patty Murray. TCT and SHARE/WHEEL activists raised many questions about why we have laws that make it illegal to help homeless. For example, Cheryl asked why giving blankets to homeless people or feeding homeless people in the parks are illegal activities.
Marvin, one of the Seattle people, suggested talking to the mayor. He suggested that the word “camp” or “encampment” are both okay, as long as it is preceded with the word “organized.” The term “organized camp” or “organized encampment” may not raise too many alarms, whereas the word “camp” or “encampment” without a modifier brings up images of spontaneous groups of homeless people living in the bushes.
Marvin also suggested making sure the camps are kept open to visitors from the community. He suggests meeting with neighbors before setting up an organized camp. Marvin also asks why it has to be churches. He notes that his research indicates there are 37 public land sites in Pierce County that could be used. That brings up the question of why is it only religious and educational institutions that are not banned from hosting a tent city, when in a larger sense, this is a city responsibility. Why is there money for hurricane and earthquake relief but no money to remediate homelessness?
Vince brings up the question of what are we to do next? Bud discussed involving some new people. We also discussed the business plan a bit. Vince will try to talk to Troy to find out what the plans are for his facility and how they can mesh purposes with TCT.
Quijote Village Visit: Cheryl discussed the visit to Quijote Village (QV) that several members of our development team made. QV has good community relations, and we can learn from their experiences. They are willing to provide advice.
Seattle Visitors and Discussion: We had several visitors from Seattle who have had experience with Share/Wheel tent cities, as well as with other places. They gave us a lot of information, were very articulate and generous. They offered to come up again if we needed them to do so.
Marvin discussed the finances involved in running a tent city. He talked about fundraising. We should not just ask for funds in general. We can ask for support of specific items, such as payment of a use fee, payment of ports-potties, etc.
Ashley discussed the importance of making positive contacts with the media and getting them on our side. We said one of the local columnists, Matt Driscoll, seemed sympathetic to the idea of a tent city and had written several articles about it. He also attended one of the TCT meetings. As we get more off-the-ground, we expect he will take us more and more seriously.
The Seattle visitors agreed that the most urgent problem to solve is waste disposal. We need adequate toilet and dumpster facilities and to make sure they are being used appropriately. Other important needs are transportation. We can ask supporters to contribute bus passes and a camp car for more urgent situations. The EC (executive committee) members have very short terms, maybe a couple of weeks. They may not hold this office more than 30 out of 60 days.
On Aug 3, we will have a meeting with one of Senator Patti Murray’s aides, Ms Carol Pfeiffer. Our Seattle visitors advise asking for “assistance” for specific items instead of money. Marvin emphasized the importance of this. He also emphasized not asking FEMA for funds. Instead, we ask for “assistance” for specific items.
Sam says the most important thing for TCT is to find a site for the first camp. Some possible church hosts are hesitant to be the first unless there is a second, because they don’t want to tell us that a camp has to move at the end of 90 days if there is no new site already lined up.
Sam and the other Seattle visitors suggest we tell the church 2 things:
It would be the law, not the church, telling us to move.
If, after we’re set up and the church develops “buyers’ regret,” or if there are problems we can’t address at that site, we are prepared to move within 24 hours if asked, even if we have no other site lined up.