Quarrel over Tent City policies leads to new homeless camp

KIRKLAND, Wash. -- A new homeless camp has sprung up on the Eastside after part of the group got fed up with security issues and political protest requirements at Tent City.

"Camp Unity" was created 10 days ago when two-thirds of the homeless residents abandoned Tent City over disagreements in how the Kirkland site is being run.

Frank Bauer was one who came to Camp Unity to escape the oversight of Seattle Housing And Resource Effort - or SHARE - which requires Tent City residents to take part in political protests involving homeless causes.

Bauer says those who refused were sometimes denied subsidized bus tickets, which homeless campers depend on.

"It feels like everybody's under some sort of pressure by them to just do what they say, because they own you," Bauer said. "They have your housing. They have this; they have that."

None of the organizers on-hand at Tent City would talk to KOMO News about the split, which also involves a disagreement over running criminal background checks.

Tent City checks campers' histories when they first arrive, but the discovery of a rape suspect convinced Camp Unity organizers to check campers' backgrounds on a weekly basis.

"We will continue to weekly to do sex offender checks on the entire camp, and people have to agree to this when they come in," said Steve Wiggins, Camp Unity operations officer.

Camp Unity is just getting up and running at Lake Washington United Methodist Church and is trying to establish its non-profit status to keep donations pouring in. They have worked out an agreement with the Methodist church to stay at that site until mid-February.

SHARE did not return our calls for comment, but in a statement on its website, SHARE claims the split at Tent City 4 has to do with disagreements over organizational policies and decisions.

SHARE also says the lack of weekly sex offender background checks doesn't make SHARE's encampment unsafe, and says no one has been harmed at Tent City 4 since it opened in 2004.