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Tom and Curley

Why people won’t speak out against tent cities, homeless

The Snohomish City Council decided that any one church can only host a camp every 18 months and the tent city can only stay at one location for four months at a time. (AP Photo/File)

The people of Sammamish want homeless camps, or at least that’s what they told the City Council.

Following two and-a-half hours of public comment and at least two more hours of private discussion among the City Council, strict new guidelines were approved for homeless encampments sponsored by local churches.

The council decided that any one church can only host a camp every 18 months and the tent city can only stay at one location for four months at a time. Before setting up camp each time, the group must also run each resident through the sex offender database and check for active warrants.

KIRO Radio host and former Sammamish City Councilmember John Curley said it was frustrating how many people showed up to the public comment advocating for tent cities in Sammamish but who weren’t actually residents.

“Eighty percent of those that got up to speak were all in favor of a tent city, but a lot of them were outside the city of Sammamish,” said John. “So you’re all for me having a couple of ramshackle tents in my backyard, but let’s stick it in your backyard and see how you feel.”

John points out that there’s something no one was willing to say, but he’s sure plenty of people were thinking it: We don’t want to do this for the homeless.

Instead, he said that those people sit silently in the meetings or even skip it. Then when tent city moves in, they sit at home and quietly curse the tent city down the street.

“They’re all for helping the homeless. They’re all for helping the people. But do you want it in your backyard?” he asked.

Tom said that when he lived just two blocks from a tent city in Greenwood, he was struck at how organized, orderly and safe it appeared. Some Sammamish residents may not want tent city “in their backyard,” but it says volumes about their character that they feel the need to not say anything at all.

“That speaks well of our society, it speaks to our better qualities,” said Tom. “But that’s why you vote in private.”

Tom and Curley on KIRO Radio 97.3 FM

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About the Author

Alyssa Kleven

Alyssa Kleven is an editor and content producer at She enjoys doting over her adorable dachshund Winnie - named for Arcade Fire front-man Win Butler.


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