KIRKLAND, Wash. -- Groups of homeless people are calling a church parking lot in Kirkland their new home. A temporary camp, moving from church to church, is giving officials a better look at a growing homeless population in the suburbs.

The camp is located across the street from Kirkland City Hall at the Kirkland Congregational Church where about 75 people are living in tents. Program leaders say these types of camps are growing in popularity.

The program, known as Camp Unity, has been met with resistance in the past, but it's not new for the people in Kirkland and they don't seem to mind.

It's providing a space for them, so at least they have a safe place to reside while they are doing their job searches or ... in some cases, attending school, said Pete Schneble of Holy Spirit Lutheran Church.

A Seattle homeless coalition estimates that roughly 9,300 people live on the streets, which is an increase from previous years. In the suburbs, an accurate count is hard to come by.

The City of Kirkland has issued a temporary use permit for Kirkland Congregational Church to host the encampment until October 31st. At that time, the camp will move across town to Holy Spirit Lutheran Church for a few months. Camp leaders say there's been such a need for their services, they've had to turn people away.

Previous homeless camps in the metropolitan area have been met with opposition from citizens who basically say, Not in my backyard. However, organizers in Kirkland promise to make sure the camp is a positive experience for everyone involved.

Kirkland Congregational says some of campers do come from inner-city neighborhoods, but they are seeing more local homeless people. Many of the homeless are found living in their cars, according to Schneble. Campers are able to take advantage of a program that promises to offer resources in finding jobs and education, among other things.

For Allen Bolen, it's been his safety net.

I moved out last year, and I thought I was finally getting out of the situation ... the emergency crisis mode that is homelessness, but I had to come back and that was ... shattering for my confidence -- but I knew I had somewhere to go, said Bolen.

As part of the permitting process, church leaders distributed a letter to neighbors giving them a notice of the camp. The city says it has received some complainants from residents, but overall there's been positive feedback.

Read or Share this story: http://www.king5.com/story/news/local/2014/08/18/14044232/