Redmond firefighters lend a hand to Camp Unity Eastside; homeless encampment sets up at St. Jude Catholic Church

When members of the Redmond Fire Department (RFD) stopped by Camp Unity Eastside while they were in Kirkland, it started out as a meeting to prepare for the homeless encampment’s stay at St. Jude Catholic Church in Redmond.

But after a conversation with president and chairman Michael Grimm, they learned that the encampment had been working on building steel platforms to place beneath residents’ tents. The platforms help keep the tents level and dry in wet weather but it was a slow process as they were only able to build the platforms when they had the funds to do so.

Hearing this, the firefighters offered to build the platforms for the encampment, which comes to Redmond today and will stay through May 23. And that is just what they did.

Last weekend, six off-duty RFD firefighters volunteered their time to build steel platforms for Camp Unity residents.

Grimm said the wood pallets they had been previously using were heavier as they would get waterlogged when it rained. He said the new platforms are lighter, easier and faster to move and do not sustain as much wear and tear.

In addition to RFD members volunteering their time and purchasing the materials, Grimm said Building Specialties in Redmond and Dunn Lumber in Bellevue sold them those materials at cost — all of which he is so appreciative of.

For Dawn Goldsmith, who is a resident of Camp Unity, the fact that people volunteered their time to build the platforms for them meant a lot.

“It makes me realize that we’re not alone,” she said.

On Monday, a community meeting was held at St. Jude, 10526 166th Ave. N.E., to give people a chance to learn about the encampment, where it will be located on the church property and other logistical details. Attendees were also given the opportunity to ask questions and share their thoughts on the encampment coming to Redmond.

Monday was the final day for public input on the short-term temporary use permit that allows Camp Unity to be located in Redmond.

Ben Sticka, a planner for the City of Redmond, said prior to Monday’s meeting, they received three letters, one in support of Camp Unity coming to Redmond and two letters opposing the encampment’s stay.

At Monday’s meeting, there were commenters on both sides of the argument.

A man who spoke in opposition of the encampment’s stay said there are those in the neighborhood who do not think the area is the right location for Camp Unity. He said he has a 13-year-old daughter and her friends who have been afraid to walk around when an encampment has been staying in the area.

“Don’t misread me,” the man said, adding that he just does not wish to have people he does not know in his neighborhood.

Another commenter who lives close to St. Jude spoke out in support of the camp, saying he has had trash and even liquor bottles show up in his neighborhood, but it has never been when an encampment has been staying. He said they have never had a problem with feeling unsafe and wanted to know more about opportunities for the community to get more involved.

In response to the man opposing the encampment’s stay, Grimm said the people who live in Camp Unity have done nothing to deserve the stones being thrown at them.

Goldsmith also responded to the commenter, countering that there have been times she hasn’t felt safe in the neighborhood where the camp has been staying as she has been watched and filmed.

“I’m a person,” she said, adding that she and her husband are living in the camp after she experienced health issues and lost all she had worked for. “We’re always blamed for someone else’s mess…we’re all human beings. I deserve my respect.”