December 06, 2007
by: jovial_cynic

image: Oly Tent City (cc) televiseus

The picture above is the Olympia tent city, known as Camp Quixote. At the time the picture was taken, Camp Quixote was located in a parking lot downtown. It was originally established as a protest to an Olympia city ordinance that was issued early in February 2007 that targeted panhandling by banning sitting on the sidewalks during the day. For many of the homeless, panhandling has been the only way for them to get money to eat; many of the 1,000 homeless individuals suffer from mental disabilities that prevent them from keeping regular jobs, so the ordinance has introduced greater difficulty for them. The tents provide some shelter from the weather, and with donations from people in the community, warm clothes and food are also being provided.

Today, the 25-person camp is located at the United Methodist church in Olympia and will remain there until December 29th, after which it will move to First Christian church. The camps can only stay in a single location for 90 days, after which they are forced to relocate.

My wife and I recently went on a shopping trip to pick up some coats, hats, and umbrellas, as well as some hand-warmers for the people in the camp. We've decided that we want to be more active in the community, and to be directly involved in the lives of people who have the greatest need. We want to partner with groups (such as the camp) who are already knee-deep in the situation, and are doing whatever they can to help. And we want to help people get out of the situation they're in and work to equip them with skills and opportunities they need to get back on their own feet.

And all this work we're doing has created a bit of a perspective change for me. For example... I've never been hungry before. Not in a real sense, anyway. Even when I was a kid and my parents didn't have much money, there was never a time when I couldn't just reach into a cupboard and grab something to turn away the creeping feeling of hunger. In my 29 years of living, I don't believe I've ever gone a whole day without eating. I've never experienced the inability to satisfy that feeling of hunger. And now I'm face-to-face with people who deal with that kind of hunger every day. What's that like? What is it like not knowing when your next meal will come?

When I check the weather, I look at the report to see what driving conditions will be like. But for people who have no home, much less a car, the weather report these days forecasts a night of cold and wet despair. What's that like?

I live in such an insulated world. Disaster is something I see on television during a five-minute news brief. Hunger is the two minutes between a rumbling in my stomach and mouthful of a warm meal. Cold is time between starting my van and having it warmed up. The conditions of poverty simply don't exist in my world... and while I don't feel guilty that I've been so blessed, it makes me want to spend less frivolously. It makes me want to waste less. It makes me want to take the abundance of blessings God has poured out on me and turn around and pour it out on people who, for unknown reasons, have not been similarly blessed.

Christmas is coming. Give to the people who need the most.


Ken said:
I commend you.
December 06, 2007

Ken said:
Oh, have you seen this?
Sidewalks of Olympia - Teaser

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December 06, 2007

jovial_cynic said:
Oh - awesome. Tim told me that you had worked on something, but I didn't know you actually had something up and running. Is there more coming?
December 07, 2007

Marcy said:
I was working the shift when you dropped by. Thank you so much! The coats were extremely welcomed and were distributed during my shift. Everyone was so incredibly thankful for the warm, dry clothes.

Just to let you know, the church has opened its doors on colder nights so the residents can sleep inside with volunteers.

You asked what else is needed. At this time, the camp could use a couple 9'x9' tents and a couple mattresses. But as I said, what we need most are volunteers to man the host tent. To sign up, email We'll also need man power and trucks to move the camp on Dec 29th.

Thank you again so much for your generosity!

December 10, 2007

jovial_cynic said:
Marcy -

I've talked with a few people from my church. Let me know what the schedule is for the 29th -- we've got two trailers standing by once we know more details.

As for manning the host tent, I'll see what I can find out. I've got little kids, and it makes it hard for me to break away to volunteer, but there might be some folks at my church willing to jump on board.

December 10, 2007

Billy said:
Great post. Keep up the great work. I'll check to see if I have anything to contribute.
December 10, 2007

Marcy said:
Wonderful! Last moving time, people met in the morning and loaded/unloaded unfenced/re-fenced until everything was done. It didn't take long with many hands. I will wish for drier weather this move.

No worries. Any friends you can round up to volunteer are always welcome.

Oh, and the residents also are looking for batteries. Specifically D and AA. Many of them use flashlights to get around the camp at night and see inside their tent, and with the short daylight hours, they're having to rely on their flashlights more and more.

Thanks again!

December 12, 2007

jovial_cynic said:
I brought in a bunch of batteries tonight... but I don't know how far they'll go. I forgot that some Mag-lights take up to four D-batteries, and there was a guy that wanted to take six D-batteries for his radio. Hrm.
December 16, 2007

India said:
I think that all of you will be blessed for doing this lastnight i watched Puyallup City Counsil Meeting and they are fighting for the right to have a tent city there instead of illeagally having to hide and be caught by the police whom cut and threw their tents in the Puyallup River.A Shame! I am a Tacoma Resident and would like to help Puyallup get their tent city passed by council. One of the Representatives even mentioned breaking them up into smaller encampments. Any ideas? I want to do my part but first we have to get these guys some sort of shelter during these harsh winter months. I commend all of you and think that it could be any of us in that situation in these hard times.Thank you!
October 26, 2009

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