Off-Islanders also have interest in outcome of Tent City stay

For one Eastsider who has challenged the merits of Tent City 4 within several communities since its inception four years ago, the truth behind the roving homeless camp is coming out during its stay on Mercer Island.

According to Steve Pyeatt, a co-founder of an anti-Tent City Web site, research from First Hill residents into the criminal histories and warrant status of some homeless people living in Tent City on Mercer Island, is bringing the camp’s failures into light. He noted that Islander efforts have found outstanding warrants on residents living in the camp. Pyeatt said he has known all along that such incidents were bound to surface, that residents of the camp may be dangerous. He has also warned City Council members that their lack of notification to the neighbors of the United Methodist Church will come back to haunt them during the next election.

“There are some excellent researchers from Mercer Island and the amazing thing is that all the things I said, they found out have happened,” Pyeatt said of the warrant-related arrests on Mercer Island involving residents of Tent City. “We have now realized that we need to be just as worried as the [people] in the camp, as they have just as many and serious problems as those who got kicked out.”

While Mercer Island police have so far arrested five Tent City residents, there are supporters of the camp who disagree with Pyeatt’s interpretation of things. According to Bill Kirlin-Hackett, the director of the county’s Interfaith Task Force on Homelessness, Pyeatt has a history of exploiting incidents at the camp and taking them out of context to inflame the current or proposed neighbors.

“None of the data he passes along is accurate,” Kirlin-Hackett said. “He cherry-picks incidents to alarm people and uses conclusions and statistics from Bothell when even their police chief made the conclusion that the overall circumstances ended up being nowhere near the problem people anticipated.”

Last month, numerous Islanders appeared before the City Council to express their support of the camp. A Bellevue woman, Peggy Hotes, has also publicly defended the camp during Council and church meetings. Hotes has stated that she lived in the camp for a time and witnessed many success stories that have taken place. Camp residents in the past have also charged Pyeatt with spreading hate through misinformation on his Web site.

As word spread that the homeless encampment would come to the Island, Pyeatt wrote e-mails to and spoke before the City Council. He was also contacted by and assisted the group of Islanders who sued the city over its temporary-use agreement regarding the camp. Pyeatt said he was approached by Mercer Islanders concerned about Tent City, and he informed them of what opponents had learned in the past and what could be done to help them on the Island. He added that he is not a member of the Island group.

Prior to the court hearing in July that denied a request to prevent Tent City from coming to the Island as scheduled, Pyeatt wrote to the Council that the court would overturn the temporary-use agreement and that the city should issue a moratorium on encampments pending the outcome of the lawsuit. He also suggested that the Council members acknowledge their mistakes and do the right thing by reversing their current course of actions.

“Or you can continue to dig your hole deeper,” Pyeatt wrote.

A football referee, Pyeatt said his distaste over Tent City is not with the homeless men and women living in it, but with the cities and organizations that move it into neighborhoods without giving a fair notice to residents.

“I’m a football official and when I’m out on the field, I don’t care who wins. As long as the game is played fairly, I’ll live with it,” Pyeatt said.

“My problem is with the organization exploiting [the homeless] for their gain. It’s the homeless version of that bike ride, Critical Mass.”

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