With Tent City 4's arrival in Bellevue about a month away, neighbors and homeless advocates sparred last night over the city's responsibilities...
With Tent City 4’s arrival in Bellevue about a month away, neighbors and homeless advocates sparred last night over the city’s responsibilities to help the poor but also protect its residents.
About 275 people packed into Temple B’nai Torah to comment on the temple’s application to host the camp beginning Nov. 16. Temple members and camp officials are asking for exceptions to many of the city’s strict requirements on everything from the number of sinks and portable toilets to the number of months the camp can stay.
In its other locations — Bothell, Kirkland, Woodinville and unincorporated King County — Tent City 4 was allowed to stay for 90 days instead of 60. And, advocates say, the cities worked closely with the camp on measures for security, hygiene and identification checks.
“We do not feel there should be any artificial limitations to the practice of our religious tradition,” said James Mirel, the temple’s senior rabbi.
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Neighbors and city officials say the City Council passed the homeless-camp ordinance last summer only after carefully balancing the needs of the homeless and city residents. Several neighbors said the stricter requirements, such as one toilet for every 15 people and hot water for cooking and drinking, improve camp conditions and help put neighbors’ minds at ease.
“Look into your own hearts. … If Tent City was going to be your next-door neighbor, how would you like it to be done?” said Julie Riley, who has lived across the street from the temple for 15 years.
The comments often were emotional, with temple members and some Tent City residents saying the camp was crucial in keeping the homeless working toward solvency.
Sheri Lucero, a Tent City resident since June, said staying in the camp is “survival for us” and a critical alternative to living in the streets. “If you sleep alone out there, you might not wake up.”
Karen Morris, a neighbor of the temple, said the community has legitimate concerns about the camp’s impacts. “I am tired of the assumption that those of us who don’t go along with everything are operating out of fear” or ignorance, she said.
If the camp moves in, as many as 100 people would live on a thin grassy area south and west of the temple.
Bellevue planning and community-development director Matt Terry will approve the application and decide what exceptions, if any, to allow to the law. He is expected to make his decision in the next few weeks.
The temple can appeal his decision within 21 days in King County Superior Court.
Among the disagreements: The temple wants to host the camp for 90 days, while the city wants 60; and the city wants one sink and toilet for every 15 people while the temple wants one for every 25.
Ashley Bach: 206-464-2567 or firstname.lastname@example.org