Campus Calling: Helping to Make a Tent a Home
The Seattle Pacific University campus was quiet and serene, devoid of any student activity at its normal, bustling level when the chain link fence surrounding the designated Tent City 3 space was set up in December 2014 outside of the Student Union Building. After remarks from several residents about the eerie silence, veteran TC3 resident Tony Reinhart reassured them, “Just wait; once January rolls around, this place will be buzzing!”
True to memory, January 5th brought the buzz of activity as classes resumed and students returned from Christmas break, many seeing the tent community, home to 100 residents at its peak, for the first time.
For its relatively small size, it held its ground well through a—thankfully—mild winter and became a temporary landmark on campus. In an effort to synthesize the residents and students, TC3 graciously offered tours of their setup to any students who wanted to walk through. Managed and run by residents themselves, students could freely interact while seeing the living conditions—and were welcomed with open arms.
Adapting to this new presence was an adjustment for most of the students. For others, it was a campus calling and leadership opportunity they couldn’t pass up. For Heather Bean, student coordinator and liaison with Urban Involvement’s Tent City 3 project team, enabling students who wanted to participate in the myriad of organized events, or initiate their own, she was more than ready to assist. Listen to her interview here.
As mentioned in Heather’s interview, a poetry group was held every Wednesday evening in an SPU classroom. The leader of the group was Sophomore Monique Vandenbroucke, who got the event approved through the John Perkins center.
The Hope for Poetry group was a space where students and Tent City 3 residents come together on equal footing and hear from and learn about one another.
In the first few meetings, the group watched videos together that showed how poetry could be used as a tool to give the unheard a voice and tell stories larger than the individual. In a reflective classroom atmosphere, students and Tent City 3 residents had time and space to think creatively.
The event was a success and every week there were equal numbers of students as there were Tent City 3 residents. The group members engaged one another and had a safe place to share their stories.
While embracing the politics and reality of the issues of homelessness was a necessary forum for students to learn about, not all events maintained a serious tone. One of the quirkier, student-driven events was hosted by an independent group of students from SPU’s Music Therapy Department.
A wide assortment of drums and percussion instruments were collected for the gathering in Beegle 1 on February 18th, which saw participation from 10 students and 4 TC3 residents. Participants were invited to follow along to leader Ben Kendall’s beat, or freestyle with their own unique sound.
The event proved to be a relaxing, stress-free environment to jam out—judgment-free, regardless of skill with instruments and rhythm.
Another fun-filled, event was an all-around favorite: Game Night! Senior student Daniel Mudge facilitated the good-natured competition in the SPU Gazebo room from 5pm to 7pm on Thursday nights throughout the quarter.
Many of the games played were cards based, and cribbage was a crowd favorite. If you were lucky, resident game aficionado, Rog, from Tent City 3 was there with his roll out chessboard; then again, don’t count yourself too lucky because, if you played him, odds are you lost every time.
Daniel commented that one of the best things about playing games with people you don’t know is that half the time everyone can be talking and socializing, but other times groups can simply be coming together over the mutual appreciation of gameplay and silence does not seem uncomfortable.
Hosting a dinner for Tent City 3, quickly establishing itself as a Tent City tradition, provided students the opportunity to serve and spend time with Tent City 3 residents.
In both their stay in 2012 and this past winter, Thursday nights were widely known throughout the encampment as a time when several different groups of students gathered together for one purpose: prepare and serve a veritable feast for the extended campus family.
The student liaison, Heather Bean, first presented a proposal for funding for the weekly dinners at student senate approximately two months before TC3 came to campus. The senate meeting resulted in successfully allocating roughly $200 for each Thursday dinner for the 8 consecutive weeks.
Having the dinner prepaid made it possible for any and all student groups to volunteer their time to shop, cook the meal in lower Peterson, and eat with Tent City 3 residents in the SUB gazebo room instead of designating that time to fundraising.
A first-come, first-serve sign-up for student groups to register filled up quickly, since there were only 8 possible nights for the dinners to be held during winter quarter. Word spread quickly and proved itself to be both a resident and student favorite. If SPU is planning a third return of TC3, Thursday night dinners will assuredly be part of the planned events based on popular demand alone.
Moving day on March 7th brought the students and residents together for the final time this winter, as many volunteered their time to help in the transition from the SPU campus to the next location at Shoreline Free Methodist. The final debriefing event on March 5th to say goodbye was bittersweet all around, as residents were clearly affected by the positive impact students had had on them.