Redmond Mayor John Marchione said the city will work hard to ensure public safety if Tent City 4 returns to Redmond.
At 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 12, St. Jude Catholic Church, 10526 166th Ave. NE in Redmond, will hold a neighborhood forum regarding the possible return of Tent City 4 this spring.
The church’s Pastoral Council has endorsed hosting the homeless encampment again and Pastor Dave Rogerson said he is seeking community input before proceeding further. When St. Jude’s hosted Tent City in early 2007, some nearby residents expressed concerns about public health and safety.
The Redmond Reporter asked Marchione and members of the Redmond City Council for their thoughts on the matter.
Marchione replied, “The city’s last experience with St. Jude’s hosting Tent City was a positive one with few complaints. The city remains committed to proactively managing any public safety and health issues with the church and the neighborhood. Some residents will object, as they did last time, and our public process provides a forum for those concerns and a chance to share the city’s efforts to ensure any issues are addressed as a condition of the permit.”
Marchione added, “When I doorbelled for Mayor, residents around St. Jude’s talked about their experiences. Some people reported their opposition to Tent City changed, in part, because they visited Tent City and the 90 days passed so quickly without any episodes. Other residents are against the concept, no matter what conditions are placed in the permit.”
City Council president Nancy McCormick commented, “My recollection of the previous visit was that overall, it went very well and was well received by many in the community, with minimal problems.”
She further noted, “Without a doubt, some small number of people will object and the best response is with facts from the first visit as well as facts from other jurisdictions and their experiences. Ironically, I finished re-reading (John Steinbeck’s 1939 novel) ‘Grapes of Wrath’ … and I certainly hope we all, as a civilized society, have learned a great deal about treating others with compassion since those horrible years, experiences I hope we are not about to see again.”
City Council vice president Pat Vache, who recently participated in King County’s One Night Count of unsheltered homeless people, said many concerns about Tent City’s safety record have been unfounded.
“I think there is a track record that it hasn’t been an issue. Their track record has been very good,” Vache noted. “As long as we’re allowing homelessness to exist — and I hope we can eliminate it within 10 years — it’s not a perfect solution, but until there is, it’s a home for some.”
Councilmembers Hank Myers, Hank Margeson and David Carson also participated in the 2009 One Night Count. In reference to Tent City, Myers said, “I was not on the council when the last Tent City was in Redmond, but supported the concept. I will attend the meeting at St. Jude’s to find out more.”
Councilmember Richard Cole stated, “As to Tent City, we have a process in place to address homeless encampments and if there is another application, it will go through our existing process.”
Councilmember Kim Allen responded, “In the event that Tent City wishes to return to Redmond, the procedure for hearing and approval of such a use is quasijudicial, meaning that the Council makes the final decision and must avoid the appearance of bias or partiality. Just like a court, we are expected to decide based only on the evidence at hearing. Because of this, I think it would not be appropriate for me to comment on this matter.”