Tent City 4 will set up shop on State Parks land for the first time in its 10-year history, starting sometime in the next week.
The encampment of 40 to 60 people started breaking down the tents in Sammamish today — the last day of the camp’s 90-day permit to stay in the city — and headed for the Hans Jensen group camp on the north end of Lake Sammamish State Park.
Tent City 4 has been a target of many Eastside critics since a man wanted on suspicion of child rape was found in the camp by undercover police at the end of 2012.Its reputation was further damaged this week when the King County Sheriff’s Office revealed that it had arrested a 38-year-old man near the camp who claimed to have sold methamphetamine to 12 residents the day he was arrested last Thursday.
Meth was also found on a man the camp ejected after he visited the Sammamish police station himself. The camp ejected eight members in all after the arrests.
“Most people here are trying to use this place as a stepping stone,” said a Tent City 4 member named Jeff. “But some people took it upon themselves to ruin it. We’re frustrated and angry.”
The state park is just south of Sammamish, where on Tuesday the City Council approved a six-month moratorium on homeless-encampment permits. After another church in Sammamish pulled its invitation to host the encampment right before the City Council meeting, Tent City’s 4 leadership was hard-pressed to find another place to stay and thought members might have to scatter this weekend.
Camp members didn’t know where they were going to next until about 3 p.m. Friday, when it was confirmed they’d be able to stay at Lake Sammamish State Park for 20 days if they paid $2 a head.
A donation of more than $6,500 from Woodinville’s Blessed Teresa of Calcutta Catholic Church will help the Tent City cover the cost until it can legally stay in Bellevue in June at Temple B’nai Torah.
State Parks spokeswoman Virginia Painter said Tent City 4′s stay at Lake Sammamish State Park is just like any other group’s. Members and advocates of the encampment said they’re hoping the stay can extend beyond the 20-day limit at the site, which usually is not busy this time of year. Painter said groups have to be gone from the site for three days before they can return.
In the site’s high season, which starts in April, the spot is popular with Boy Scouts groups and large family get-togethers, Painter said. Issaquah Soccer Club teams practice and play games in the park’s fields south of the Hans Jensen camp.
Varying city ordinances on the Eastside limit how many times a homeless encampment can stay in a city or at certain locations, but the camps typically need to move every 90 days. Finding space has become more competitive since two-thirds of Tent City 4 split off at the end of 2012 and formed Camp Unity Eastside.
The group went its own way when Tent City 4 leaders wouldn’t approve the weekly background checks its host church wanted, and is now at Woodinville Unitarian Universalist Church until Feb. 15.