An Open Letter from the Campers of Tent City 4 (Now Camp Unity)

Dear Friends,

Tent City 4 has been a little off balance lately and I think it would be helpful to offer a bit of background on how Tent City 4 operates and some of the challenges we have been dealing with.  Tent City 4 is a part of Share/Wheel.  Share is a non-profit organization which operates between 15 and 20 indoor shelters in or around Seattle and also works with Tent City 3 and Nickelsville.  Wheel is a sister non-profit that is affiliated with Share and offers shelter and assistance to women only.

Tent City 4 has been operating since 2004 and in order to stay at TC4 (Tent City 4) everybody is required to assist in keeping harmony at the host church and at TC4.  Signing up for two weekly three hour security shifts usually satisfies this requirement.  Picking up litter, greeting visitors and turning away interlopers are examples of duties that are performed while doing a security shift.   Campers at TC4 are also required to do at least one community credit every two weeks.  A community credit can be satisfied by doing something that brings awareness to the problems associated with being homeless and working toward solutions.

For at least the last four years, and probably longer than that, TC4 has done warrant checks and sex offender checks on anybody wishing to stay at TC4.  TC4 is able to call law enforcement and they will tell us if somebody has an outstanding warrant or a sex offense.  If somebody attempts to stay here and they have an outstanding warrant, the police are called and that person is taken away.  If they have had a sex offense they are told to leave.  On Thursday, November 8,2012, this check and balance did not prevent a person who was charged with a sex offense from residing at TC4.  One of our residents was accused of a sex offense in Pierce County before being admitted to TC4 but charges were not filed until after he was already living here.

The delayed filing of charges in Pierce County resulted in an arrest of this individual by several police at St. John Vianney Church.  To any ones knowledge, this is the only time this has ever happened.

As an added safeguard, and to prevent this from ever recurring again, Father Ramon asked us to do weekly sex offender checks on everybody living at TC4.  The leadership at TC4 was more than happy to agree to this common sense safety measure.  Nobody at TC4 wants to take a chance on letting a sex offender into the tent city.  TC4 is grateful to St. John Vianney for hosting us and will do whatever is required so that there are no problems.  Since TC4 is a part of Share/Wheel, we usually go through them and their consultant, Scott Morrow, before we make changes at the camp but his situation seemed urgent and we told church staff we would regularly check everybody at the tent city.

Scott Morrow has taken exception to this change because he thinks that it goes against our right to privacy and he does not want to set a precedent for TC4 in the future.

We have tried to discuss this matter with Mr. Morrow and have not had any success in convincing him that it is appropriate for us to do regular sex offender checks.  Mr. Morrow has responded by attempting to banish the camp advisor, Steve Wiggins, from Tent City 4 for two weeks and permanently removing him from his leadership position because he tried to work with St. John Vianney Church staff to resolve this problem.  TC4 has had several meetings at the camp and almost unanimously, we want to stand by Steve Wiggins in his decision and work with Father Ramon to make sure this does not happen again.

At TC4, it is becoming clear that Scott Morrow’s decision NOT to permit us to do weekly checks on everybody staying at the camp is non-negotiable.  Mr. Morrow has slowly been ratcheting up the consequences of not removing Steve Wiggins from his leadership position and for talking with church staff.  Scott Morrow has told us that only he is allowed to talk to St. John Vianney Church no matter how long it takes for him to become available.  There has been a long history of disagreements between TC4 and Mr. Morrow and usually we’re able to agree to disagree but this time is different.  TC4 is going to do weekly checks on everybody at Tent City 4 whether Mr. Morrow likes it or not.  We have also started working towards breaking away from the Share/Wheel organization and becoming independent.  Mr. Morrow no longer communicates with us and he has changed the password on our e-mail account.  He has also stopped giving us bus tickets and we feel we can no longer work with him.

Mr. Morrow may attempt to disparage Tent City 4 to churches and organizations that have helped us and support us but we hope this will not happen.  Our new e-mail address is Campunityeastside@gmail.com and we welcome any further questions or inquiries that anybody may have.

We will continue to make every effort to work with St. John Vianney Church and be good neighbors.

 

Very Sincerely

Bookkeeper at Tent City 4

Mike Messer

 

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