Camp Unity takes new direction for homeless

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by ALLEN SCHAUFFLER / KING 5 News

KING5.com

Posted on November 26, 2012 at 8:26 PM

Alan Gill has been homeless since March of 2011. Much of that time he lived at the tent cities on the east side of Lake Washington run by the non-profit organization SHARE. But Gill is one of dozens who have moved out of Tent City 4 and into “Camp Unity,” fed up with dealing with SHARE in general and with a paid consultant used by SHARE, Scott Morrow.

Gill claims he and others were forced to participate in political protests involving homeless causes orchestrated by Morrow and SHARE, required to do weekly camp security duties, attend regular organizational meetings, and fulfill “community credit” requirements every two weeks by working with various SHARE committees. Gill says Morrow called the shots and used access to the cut-rate bus tickets provided by METRO as a way of persuading people to comply. There was also the threat of being barred from the camp if the rules weren’t followed. The bus tickets are critically important for getting to medical appointments, seeing family and especially, for looking for work and getting to and from jobs.  

“When you have that held over your head every time something went wrong with the camp,” said Gill plaintively, “he withheld our bus tickets so we couldn’t get to our jobs and that’s not right.”

Gill said he’s been a free spirit his whole life and found the various camp and organizational rules just too much to handle. 

“When you’re forced to do something you don’t feel in your heart is right, well that’s not the way I do things,” he said.

But at Tent City3 in Shoreline, a SHARE board member said all those charges are untrue. His response to what Gill and many others at Camp Unity said about the way the tent cities are run and the specific charges about the misuse of bus-tickets and residents being required to take part in political protests and street-demonstrations is simple.

“Either they’re wrong or they’re lying to you,” said board member Jarvis Capucion.

He said all camp residents have to fill certain requirements and perform certain tasks in support of the organization, and that could include participating in political protests, but it’s not required.

Unity campers report that each camp, Tent City 3 and Tent City 4, was ordered to send a minimum of 15 people a night to take part in a recent “camp-out” on the streets of Seattle, advocating for the homeless. That has been confirmed by a source who works with SHARE.

Steve Wiggins, one of the people who led the exodus from Tent City 4, said people are glad to be out of the shadow of SHARE.

“It was very oppressive, what we had in the past. We’re trying to get away from that. We’re an empowerment camp,” said  Wiggins.

Scott Morrow, who describes himself as a paid consultant to SHARE, but who Camp Unity residents claim repeatedly and vehemently has the final say on much of what happens in the tent cities, refused to comment for this report, instead referring me to Capucion at the Shoreline camp.

 

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