Living out SPU’s mission

Displaced community returns to Seattle Pacific University

University Chaplain Bo Lim sent out an email on Friday, Sept. 29, announcing that Seattle Pacific University will be hosting Tent City Three for the third time. Lim believes that this is a tangible way to express the mission of SPU.

“At SPU we do not view our hosting of TC3 as merely an act of charity, but rather an opportunity for mutual enrichment between communities.  TC3 affords an opportunity to not merely learn about the challenges of affordable housing and the crisis of homelessness in Seattle, but also befriend people who live with this reality,” Lim wrote.

Getting a permit through the city council is still in process, but it is to be expected that TC3 will be on campus from Nov. 18, 2017 to Feb. 10, 2018.

TC3 will be set up on the parking lot and lawn between McKenna Hall, Mailing Services, and the SPU Bookstore.

The presence of a homeless community on campus can be daunting to some students, but in the past, this was not the case. Students were able to build relationships and learn more about the struggles of being homeless in Seattle.

In fact, the history of TC3 with SPU began with students advocating to help the homeless back in 2012, resulting in two encampments, the first being that year and the second in 2015.

That action did not stop there, with President Dr. Dan Martin establishing the SPU Homelessness Initiative and SPU Committee on Homelessness in response. This committee enables SPU to host tent city on a more regular basis.

“The reaction was generally very good.” Commented Dr. Karen Snedker, a sociology professor involved with Tent City Three in the past.

“Dr. Jennifer McKinney and I conducted a survey of the SPU community (representative sample) and found that while nearly 90 percent of the SPU community pre- and post-test reported that TC3 would (or did) impact SPU positively, there was a significant shift pre- and post-test to how the SPU community saw TC3 impacting SPU negatively.”

Dr. Snedker’s survey showed how students reacted to homelessness placed in their daily lives.

“In the pre-test, 38 percent reported that TC3 would negatively impact SPU, but only 15 percent saw TC3 as negatively impacting SPU afterward.  In addition, 27 percent anticipated that TC3 would pose problems while only 11 percent experienced any problems.”

Tent City Three is an organized community of homeless people who move to a different location every three months, which was started through the SHARE/WHEEL foundation. SHARE stands for Seattle Housing and Resource Efforts. Established in the 1990’s, they seek to “eradicate homelessness, educate the community, and empower homeless people” according to their website.

WHEEL stands for Women’s Housing, Equality, and Enhancement League, an organization inclusive to women. WHEEL was established in 1993. For twenty-two years, SHARE/WHEEL has been the largest shelter network in King County, comprised of 15 indoor shelters and three “Tent Cities.”

But unlike other organizations for the homeless, SHARE/WHEEL practices self-management, a practice witnessed during decision-making. Participants at weekly community meetings make all decisions in SHARE and WHEEL. Every participant who attends has an equal vote. The paid staff does not have a vote.

According to the SHARE/WHEEL website, “self-management” is the idea of acknowledging and promoting the “innate dignity of each person.”

This establishes the importance of each person who participates in the meetings, giving them an opportunity for their voice to be heard.

This helps give people a sense of responsibility and purpose. The SHARE/WHEEL website gives a voice to those who do not feel they have one and teaches them to be responsible with the decisions they make.

As SPU students and professors alike prepare for Tent City Three, on Oct. 18, SPU’s Common Day of Learning, SPU will be having a session titled “Reforming our Understanding of Homelessness.”

In the evening there will be a showing of the film “Under the Bridge:  The Criminalization of Homelessness,” followed by a talk session with Maurice Young, a homelessness activist featured in the film.

SPU has a tangible way to engage the culture of the marginalized people group through Tent City Three.

Snedker believes Tent City Three is a great way to align with the Christian mission, stating, “I believe that SPU recognized the rise in homelessness in our city and wanted to do something as a community to bear witness and bring awareness.”

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