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Many read the Seattle Times editorial on June 8 regarding Tent City coming to Mercer Island. Many forwarded the piece to neighbors, members of the City Council and to the Reporter offices. The Times editorial said that tent cities are “pointless,” that their purpose as an effective means to show the plight of the poor is outdated and that “tent cities are not acceptable in a modern city.”
Of course, we should discourage anyone from living permanently in a tent. But this is not about tents. It is about people. Are there set guidelines about where the poor, desperate and sometimes undesirable are to lay their heads? If not here at least temporarily, then where? In trailers? Under bridges? In uninhabitable motels on Aurora Avenue? Out of sight?
The Times piece also said that such an encampment only serves to “have homelessness in the face of well-housed people in order to make them feel guilty.”
Hey, we can handle it. We have seen the poor before. Islanders do a great deal to help those less fortunate both near and far, not because they feel guilty, but because there is a need — because Islanders are compassionate.
Islanders are often regarded by others as rather snobbish and entitled. Here is an opportunity to show that we are not.
Many living around the proposed site for Tent City are worried about safety. It is a legitimate concern. It will be up to the city and the faith community who is sponsoring the encampment to demonstrate to neighbors that all measures will be taken to protect the community. We believe they will.
No, Tent City will not eliminate homelessness, but neither will protests against the war in Iraq bring troops home sooner nor will walkathons end cancer anytime soon.
But we have to try.