The Gazebo Room in the Student Union Building filled with students bundled in their working clothes as they came on Saturday, Nov. 18 for a breakfast sponsored by the John Perkins group Latreia.
It was finally Tent City 3 move-in day, and the Gazebo room was the headquarter for all operations of TC3.
After checking in, the Latreia team welcomed all students with a warm pancake breakfast, and freshly brewed coffee was also provided.
Third-year psychology major Derek Riegel is a part of the Latreia engagement team as the Budget Manager. Riegel believes changing the stigma behind those who are homeless is largely about changing the language.
“It gives us the chance to start seeing these individuals as people, not just ‘homeless people.’ Even the language we use around this issue is important. When we label them as ‘homeless people,’ I don’t think we realize that we’re essentially assigning their identity to match with being ‘homeless.’ Instead, I think using words like: they are ‘experiencing homelessness’ or ‘individuals experiencing homelessness’ can change how we see these individuals,” Riegel said.
With about 300 people signed up to help on move-in day, and Latreia was a major partner in facilitating throughout the day, explained Co-chair of the Tent City 3 Committee Niki Amarantides and Paul Kim of the John Perkins Center.
In addition to volunteers, various news sites came to cover the move-in, including KOMO news, which covered a last-minute attempt to stop Tent City 3 from moving in filed by a Queen Anne resident.
According to KOMO, the organization Safe and Affordable Seattle filed a 13-page appeal with the City of Seattle on Thursday, Nov. 16.
KOMO said the organization claimed that the city is not abiding by construction codes as well as citing environmental concerns. They also argued that residents and businesses near homeless encampments often fall victim to a rise in “soft crime,” which are considered misdemeanors.
Senior, physiology major and Urban Involvement Coordinator Kristi Holt saw the news media post, and said that there is a healthy way to respond to Tent City 3 for those who are unsure of what it means to interact with people experiencing homelessness.
“I think that the natural human response to change and to the unknown is fear. I can understand why some in the Queen Anne community have responded with fear. At the end of the day, the residents of TC3 are our neighbors,” Holt said.
Senior family and consumer science major Summer Staley understands that it can be uncomfortable to have this population of people at SPU.
“I encourage anyone who is feeling confused or uncomfortable to spend an afternoon serving the residents, or any population of people in need. When you have a change to see poverty and homelessness face-to-face, you will understand why it is important to give them a safe place to reside. We have all had times where we were in need, and the TC3 residents are not any different,” Staley said.
“Of course, with finals and the Christmas break coming up, we will have to keep momentum going in other ways,” Kim and Amarantides noted.
During the holiday break, they will be reaching out to churches in the area and community groups to get involved while the majority of students are away. However, those who live in the area plan on staying involved as well over the break.
From the resident complaint about Tent City 3 move-in to the overwhelming supply of student volunteering to welcome these new neighbors, this is only the beginning. Students are encouraged to go to the website and register to interact with Tent City 3 residents. This is a unique opportunity to engage in a marginalized community often unwelcome in Seattle.
“Don’t know what to do when you see a Tent City 3 person on campus? Just smile, say ‘Welcome to SPU’ and shake their hand. Then stop in and see if you can chat with folks and learn more,” Amarantides said.
She suggests gathering floormates and friends to come up with ideas to interact with the folks of Tent City 3. Get manicures. Bring instruments over. Bake cookies or make hot chocolate.
The residents of Tent City 3 will be SPU’s neighbors for the next three months, so Amarantides and Kim encourage all community members to ask themselves: How can we love our neighbors?
Tent City 3 will be at SPU till Feb. 10.