For the congregation, neighbors, schools, groups using our building and other community partners:
At our All-Church Conference on Sunday, November 11, 2012, the congregation and leaders of Lake Washington United Methodist Church voted unanimously to invite Tent City 4 to return for a 92 day stay beginning January 12, 2013.
At the time, we were not aware of the recent events leading to the arrest of a suspect in a case of child rape and child molestation in Tacoma. The arrest was made at the camp on November 7, during the camp’s stay at St. John Vianney Catholic Church on 84th Avenue Northeast on Kirkland’s Finn Hill.
As with all residents, the camp conducted sex-offender and bench-warrant background checks . The checks did not indicate either, because the suspect had not been charged.
Though we have not confirmed it with the authorities, we believe the Tacoma police were able to locate the suspect because the camp entered his information into the system to conduct the background checks.
Following the arrest, leaders of St. John Vianney asked the camp to conduct more frequent checks on the residents to limit the possibility of similar future situations.
The camp leaders agreed to conduct the checks, a decision many of the camp residents supported not only for the church and Finn Hill communities, but for the safety of their own community.
The managing agency, SHARE/WHEEL, informed the camp and the church that they would not allow the background checks and the leaders in the camp that agreed to conduct them had no authority to do so. After several meetings with SHARE/WHEEL, the leaders of the camp were barred from the camp and from leadership. However, when votes were held at Tent City 4, the majority of the camp rejected the decision to bar the leaders, and upheld the decision to honor St. John Vianney’s request regarding the background checks. SHARE announced that if the leaders did not leave the camp, they would close Tent City 4 at 9:00 a.m. Thursday, November 15, 2012. The leaders were prepared to leave to ensure that other 60 – 70 residents would not be displaced.
Along with leaders from several Eastside faith communities, the leaders and many residents continued to ask what would happen if SHARE continued to refuse to conduct the checks if the leaders left the camp. However, no one seemed to be willing to answer that question.
Though police were on hand to maintain a peaceful exit, they were not needed. The leaders along with 40 -50 other residents, packed their personal belongings and left the camp, leaving approximately 20 residents in camp.
Though most of the tents, food, and camp equipment were donated by local faith communities and individuals to be used for the residents and leadership of Tent City 4, the departing majority made no effort to remove tents or other equipment, per SHARE/WHEEL’s instructions. Effectively, these 50-60 Tent City 4 residents were leaving behind the small amount of shelter and privacy that they had known.
With the support of several faith communities, including members of St. John Vianney Catholic Church, the congregation at Lake Washington United Methodist Church is providing emergency shelter for the now tent-less residents. The newly empowered residents have reestablished their leadership team for the new encampment: Camp Unity East. They will be filing for incorporation and nonprofit status as a 501.c3.
The majority of rules from the Tent City 4 will be maintained, including banned substance and alcohol, no violence, quiet hours, community service, and the new rule to conduct weekly review of the sex-offender registry. Some of the rules are being reconsidered, like those that limited them from participating in the ministries of the host faith community. Of course, all federal, state, and local laws will be maintained.
We are working with the city of Kirkland to secure a permit for the temporary encampment as quickly as possible, while following the necessary protocol, including community notification and community meetings.
We will be holding an emergency meeting at 7:00 p.m. Tuesday, November 20, 2012 in the sanctuary at Lake Washington United Methodist Church 7525 132nd AVE NE Kirkland, WA 98033. This will not replace the required community meeting that will happen after proper and adequate notification. It is instead intended to provide information that we have and answer any questions from our neighbors and community members. The official required community meeting will take place following proper notification of the neighbors.
We are receiving dozens of inquiries about how individuals, groups, and faith communities can help Camp Unity.
Camp Unity leaders are taking inventory and organizing a list of needs. It may be listed other places, but we will try to provide it here: http://www.lwumc.com/ministries/tent-city/camp-unity-needs-list/ )
It is my understanding that St. John Vianney still expects SHARE/WHEEL to conduct the weekly checks, and if they do not comply, Tent City 4 will be required to leave the grounds. This may result in the remaining residents joining Camp Unity, whose leaders state that they will continue to be welcomed as members of the community.
With the residents of Camp Unity and Tent City 4, we are grateful for the outpouring of compassion and generosity from you our Eastside friends and neighbors.
Pastor Kelly Dahlman-Oeth