Posted on Sep 12th, 2009 by Allison (Politics / Social Issues)

Tent city 4This is a post I’ve been meaning to write since last February, when I first visited Tent City 4 as my participation on the National Day of Service that President Obama called for. Since then, I’ve taken donations to them several times.

I decided to return yesterday (another National Day of Service) to drop off some supplies, talk to residents, and take a tour and some pics of the new location (Holy Spirit Lutheran in Kirkland, WA).

The mission of Tent City 4:

  • To provide a safe place for homeless people to spend the night and keep their belongings
  • To give a homeless person the privacy and dignity of their own residence (a tent)
  • To develop a sense of community for homeless people who are isolated and alone;
  • To empower homeless people by being responsible for their own community.

There are so many reasons why people end up in a position of homelessness – and Tent City 4 provides a place for up to 100 residents to call “home” – single men, single women and couples. Some are only there for a few weeks or months – others have been there for a couple of years. The average stay is 6 weeks.

On a visit early summer, Will (assigned the job of accepting donations that day) gave me the tour. He lost his job of 14 years in Arizona and moved to Seattle last year looking for working in the fishing industry (which didn’t work out so well). He shared a tent with his fiance’ – which is kept spotless and graced with potted gerbera daisy. He said he needs to have that bit of natural beauty in his surroundings to feel grounded.

Will inspired me to give service/donation of flowers. So I purchased 7 small pots, some potting soil, a bunch of flowers, and set about creating floral gifts to help residents tents feel more like ‘home.’

Several residents tend to potted plants outside their tentsThey were quickly snatched up when I delivered them a couple of weeks later. I noticed one of them as I passed by the couples tent area yesterday and was happy to see they were still being cared for and thriving.

It appeared Will and his fiance’ were no longer residents. I hope he’s found good employment and somewhere indoors to live. Living outdoors can be brutal in the summer heat and winter cold.

Tent city residentMy tour guide this visit is taking classes at the local college to get a better job.  He wants to be a web designer, photographer – and possibly offer tours of Seattle.  We discussed how beautiful it is here, and how much there is to see.

It turns out he was caring for three of the flower pots – he’d taken them as their owners moved on so they’d survive.  I told him that when the summer flowers die, I’ll bring pansies in to replace them for the winter. He liked that idea.

Debi and friend at Tent City 4Also on this trip, I asked each resident if they’d like their picture taken. Many said no – but just as many were delighted and said yes, especially when I told them I’d bring back prints for them :). Debi asked for a extra copy so she could put it on her husband’s grave.

Tent city residentI’ll be returning sometime next week with pictures in hand – as well as at least one item I know they currently need (I’m on an email list to get regular updates of the needs).

I think TC4 is a really great idea and am grateful that various churches in King County are willing to play host.    Due to city ordinances, they are limited to 90 day stays before they have to pack up the entire setup and move to another property. The first time they go to a new area, there is resistance from the local residents.  But once they’ve had their 90 day stay, people recognize that TC4 is a good and responsible part of the neighborhood and they are much more welcoming for future stays.

Tent city 4 in Redmond, WA

There are strict rules of conduct – no alcohol, no drugs, no sex offenders, no fighting. One offense and you’re out. There is security at the entrance 24/7. They self govern, electing residents to serve on the executive committee. All residents are required to attend a weekly meeting, and to perform at least one task a day for the community.

Members of the hosting church usually provide a hot dinner for them each night. The rest of the meals they’re on their own with a food tent containing a fridge, microwave, toaster and coffee pot. A local dry cleaners donates the laundering of the blankets each week.  Residents are responsible for their own laundry. Food, clothing, personal care supplies, etc. are donated by community members.

More details about Tent City 4 are available in this FAQ – click here.

Tent City 4 is open to the public 24/7 – and they are happy to give tours into the early evening. Just stop by with your donation and ask to be shown around. It really is worth your time and energy to do so.  They’ll be in Kirkland through October 31st, 2009 (map here).

Here is a short list of some things they currently (and usually) need.  It doesn’t take much to make a difference:

Paper towels
Paper bowls
Paper cups
Hot and Cold cereal
Single serving can products
Bath towels
Shaving cream
Sweatshirts (esp large sizes)
Flip Flops for the shower
**used, in usable condition is fine, except for underwear

You can also send a donation to: Kirkland Interfaith Network

Mail to:
8316 NE 143rd ST.
Kirkland, WA 98034
Make checks out to KIN and put TC4 in notation.

They’ll make sure your donation is used specifically for Tent City 4. (Kirkland Interfaith has several projects they sponsor). Right now $52 will buy someone a new tent – and tents are ALWAYS needed, as most of them aren’t designed to be lived in 365 days a year.

So what do you think about Tent City 4?   I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences with community service, homelessness, outreach, etc.

(7) Comments   


Ashley Rae on September 13th, 2009 at 11:16 am

Wow… I think that is such a great idea to have places like that for people who are in need of it. And what a cool opportunity for you to go and meet some of the people there and serve them. I love how you leave your signature(s) of flowers and photography 🙂

Brandon Pearce on September 13th, 2009 at 2:08 pm

What a great service the community offers, and what a great opportunity to help! I bet some of them will really enjoy the photo prints you’ll be taking them, too. How did you find out about TC4 in the first place?

Jennifer Pearce on September 13th, 2009 at 2:12 pm

Wow, that sounds like such a great blessing to the homeless members of the the community and to others in the community who take the opportunity to help. Very uplifting and inspiring. Thank you for sharing, and for your great example of service and love.

Allison on September 13th, 2009 at 2:38 pm

I’ve met some really lovely people, and am always impressed with the cleanliness and feeling of safety throughout the entire community.

I first learned of TC4 on this website. It’s one set up by President Obama’s team to provide people a resource for finding ways to serve in their community.

On the first National Day of Service (MLK day in February), serving a hot lunch at TC4 was one of the option and it sounded interesting, and I went.

I feel so blessed to have a comfortable home in which to live – and it doesn’t take much to share some used clothes, buy an extra package of paper towels or pick up a can of coffee when shopping, or pot some flowers to make someone else’s life better. And what seems like such a small thing to me, can be make a huge difference to the recipient.

Michelle on September 13th, 2009 at 6:49 pm

Alli your post brought quite a few tears to my eyes. We that have so much, and are so blessed take it for granted don’t we? I was extremely moved by your actions, how selfless and kind of you! I will certainly at least send a monetary donation to such a great cause. Please keep us posted on your visits to tent city.

Chris on September 16th, 2009 at 8:07 am

I think this is really a wonderful idea…what a great place for these people to go until they can get back on their feet, with a chance for a hot meal and a church and everything under security. Volunteering is so good for the soul, I’ll never forget the few times I have helped, it really puts life in perspective, doesn’t it. That is great of you to help out Allison. I’m looking at that list of supplies and it really isn’t much that they need, I’d like to donate. Thanks for posting this.

Sandra Hunt on October 12th, 2012 at 9:20 pm

Please update the address for donations to Tent City4: Sandra Hunt
8316 NE 143rd ST.
Kirkland, WA 98034
Make checks out to KIN and put
TC4 in notation. We got annexed into Kirkland. Thanks,

Post a Comment
Providing your email address is not necessary, however, after your first post, when you do enter your email address, your comments will post immediately rather than wait for moderation. Don't worry, your email address will not be posted anywhere.
Email: (hidden)