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Tent City 3 settles in for short summer stay on Capitol Hill

Nadine Skidmore

Nadine Skidmore

Tent City 3 is nearly finished moving into its home for the next two months, the parking lot of St. Joseph’s at 19th and Aloha. Though there are a few things left to set up, the new location is an improvement.

“It’s a lot more quieter,” said resident Nadine Skidmore. “We don’t have the buses and college kids yelling.”

Volunteers from St. Joseph’s and tent city residents moved the encampment from its previous home in the U-District over the weekend. The camp is made up of rows of tents known as dorms, along with tents that serve as a computer room, a kitchen, a laundry room, and a community dining hall. There are four port-a-potties located just inside the camp’s entrance and a tent at the entryway that serves as a gatehouse.

Residents estimate it can hold about 100 people, a larger capacity than when it was located in the U-District, and currently has around 60.

Nadine’s husband and fellow Tent City 3 resident Joe Skidmore said moving was not too bad. “The young people knocked it out in no time.”

Residents are also largely pleased with the proximity to amenities at St. Joseph’s. A man who identified himself as Lumberjack said that the new camp’s location puts it right near the YMCA, grocery stores, bus stops, and food banks. Lumberjack said that in contrast, at other tent cities he has stayed at he has found himself out in the middle of the countryside two miles from the nearest bus stop.

The primary complaint was that the showers have yet to be set up. “This camp really needs to get the showers, because there are a lot of us and we haven’t showered in a week,” said Nadine Skidmore. “It’s about to get rank.”

Nadine said she has not yet talked to any of the surrounding neighbors, but she chatted with some friendly St. Joseph’s parishioners on Sunday. The parishioners told Nadine they have plans to organize bingo nights and donate clothing to the camp. St. Joseph’s is also hosting an ice cream social with the tent city residents on June 28 from 7 to 8:30 PM in the church parking lot. The public is invited to enjoy some Molly Moon’s ice cream with residents and Tent City organizers. Plans for a talent show, barbecue, and movie night are also in the works.

Seattle has budgeted an emergency $7.6 million to help alleviate homeless camping issues across the city on top of $40 million planned to be spent on services this year. Seattle is also planning to open a homelessness services center. District 3 rep Kshama Sawant called for an even larger $10 million emergency spend. The city is currently wrestling with how best to clear The Jungle, the leafy, difficult to patrol area below the I-5 and I-90 interchange used for decades as an area to camp.

Under the Tent City model, the organization SHARE/WHEEL partners with private landowners to host tent cities in order to give the encampments some amount of protection. According to resident Ray Pahlo, Tent City 3’s next location will be in Shoreline.

St. Joseph deacon Steve Wodzanowski said that Tent City’s return to Capitol Hill — it visited St. Joe’s in 2006 and again in 2011 — has gone “extremely well.”

“So far everything has been positive,” said Wodzanowski. “We had a wonderful outpouring of volunteer support to help them move in and hosted a welcome dinner. So far we have not received any pushback from our neighbors.”

Lumberjack says that he has had some positive interaction with the neighbors. “The neighborhood knows us, they know what we’re about,” he said. “We’re open, you can come in, talk to us, learn about the camp.”

Want to get involved? There are lots of volunteer/donation opportunities for Tent City 3, and all are encouraged to attend the June 28th ice cream social.


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