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Tent City 4 Splitting From Parent Group in Fallout of Rape Suspect's Arrest

Residents of the camp for homeless people now located at Kirkland's St. John Vianney Church say the parent group SHARE objected to an agreement with the church to do random checks for sex offenders after the arrest of a child rape suspect.

The fallout over the arrest of a rape suspect at Tent City 4 has led to a split between its Seattle-based parent organization SHARE and residents of the homeless camp now located at Kirkland’s St. John Vianney Church.

SHARE, or Seattle Housing and Resource Effort, objected to an agreement residents of the camp made with parish officials to begin random weekly checks for sex offenders, according to camp residents. The pact was made after Kirkland police last week arrested at the camp 35-year-old Robert Bruce McKay-Erskine, charged on Nov. 8 in Pierce County with aggravated first-degree child rape.

Sandra Hunt of Kirkland, who with her husband Randy Hunt serves as supply coordinator for the camp, said residents had asked her to notify the media of the split and a change in the name of the camp. Henceforth it will be named Camp Unity Eastside.

Hunt said SHARE, founded and run by homeless and formerly homeless people in Seattle, has never agreed with Tent City’s background checks and its policy to report to police any resident found to be subject to an outstanding warrant.

“They feel it’s an invasion of privacy,” she said. “The reason (residents) have split from SHARE is the camp feels it needs to work directly with the church and community. Tent City doesn’t want that type of person in the camp either. They want to be safe and be good neighbors in the community.”

SHARE, which helped establish Tent City on the Eastside several years ago, has a somewhat different version of events, as posted on its web site here. It will arrive at the camp, based at St. John Vianney on Finn Hill until January 21, to remove its equipment and facilities. The SHARE web site said it will “close” the camp and residents will be “required to leave the premises by 9 AM Thursday morning, November 15.” It added that SHARE “will cease any association or support for this encampment.”

But it appears the residents have no intention of leaving.

“It’s in our interests to be good neighbors and maintain a good relationship with the host church,” one camp official who asked not to be identified said Wednesday.

Hunt said SHARE provides the camp with a dumpster, portable toilets and a cell phone, and originally provided tents as well. Hunt said food and other supplies are provided to Tent City 4 by the Kirkland Interfaith Network, a group of congregations supported by donations and civic groups.

Kirkland Patch is attempting to reach Father Ramon Santa Cruz, the pastor of the Catholic parish, who last week sent a letter to neighbors of the church on Finn Hill about the arrest and the agreement to do random checks for sex offenders. Patch will update this story when he replies.

Hunt said Tent City 4 residents are aware of neighbors’ concerns about the arrest and other issues neighbors have raised. She said the camp, which provides its own security, is open to anyone 24 hours a day. Residents welcomed this reporter to the camp on Wednesday to take photos.

About 100 people currently reside at the camp, which moves every 90 days to various congregations in Eastside cities, including Issaquah (through the Issaquah Sammamish Interfaith Coalition, at times located in the parking lot behind Community Church of Issaquah), Redmond, Bellevue and Woodinville. Tent City 4 has been at St. John Vianney five times since 2004, as well as at least two other Kirkland churches.

Kirkland police say that in general, they experience very few issues with residents of the camp.

jimu November 15, 2012 at 05:38 PM
I read through all the posts dealing with TC4 on the SHARE website and it's hard to know what the real story is. Was this group rebellious and uncooperative or are SHARE's rules heavy handed and out-of-touch? I don't understand why SHARE is so strongly opposed to the background checks. It sounds to me like this community got together and decided for themselves what was best for their group and their own security. I'm not saying that background checks should be imposed on all SHARE communities, but why can't the community make this decision themselves? Why do they have to permit sex offenders in their camps? This doesn't seem reasonable to me.

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