Statement by Safe Haven Tent Community

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This document is a collective effort of the Safe Haven Tent
Community and its supporters!
A small tent community has formed in Champaign,
and with it, a growing constituency of support from the
citizens of Champaign County. the Safe Haven Tent Community
(SHTC) arose in response to a practical need for a
livable solution to the housing crisis in the local area.
The members of the group and their supporters aim to
address the housing problem from the position of people
living in homelessness. This group has banded together
out of the need to provide respect, security, and wellbeing
for each other.
The community began in a vacant lot adjacent to the
Catholic Workers’ House’s back yard. The group organized
itself following a series of discussions among the members
of the provisional tent community, as well as the workers,
committee members, and volunteers at the Catholic Workers’
House. The group is comprised of a handful of individuals
who camp together out of friendship and concern for
each other’s safety and well being. The SHTC provides a
safe, temporary community-oriented space for the people
of this city on an abandoned piece of land.
There are resources available to the homeless in Champaign
County that deserve appreciation and recognition.
However, some of the area shelters have lengthy waiting
lists, some lack enough space to accommodate families,
and some, at times, are unsafe. The SHTC has been created,
in part, in reaction to the inability of the county to
supply enough resources to local shelters.
SHTC provides a relative safety for the homeless. Living
without shelter on the streets is a constant struggle.
Our homeless women and men risk their campsites, their
possessions, and their lives by being alone out on the
streets. They are denied their dignity and respect by having
to hide in public spaces. Their campsites and living
spaces, once discovered, are often removed or destroyed.
However, camping in the city, as an alternative to being
on the streets alone, is considered illegal. This creates a
dilemma not only for the community at large, the city government,
and the service providers, but also for the people
who live in tents. Dismantling the SHTC, amounts to denial
of safety and security to individuals because of their socioeconomic
status. People would still have to camp in the
city but would be alone and more vulnerable to hardships
and would have to negotiate with the city alone rather
than collectively. Homeless people are citizens too and
their safety needs to be protected.
The Champaign County SHTC will continue to operate as
an autonomous decision-making body in order to refine a
sustainable living practice. The group’s members make decisions
as a collective in roundtable discussions and live by
the bylaws following the precedence set by Dignity Village,
a sustained tent community based in Portland, Oregon.
The project has recently become public because of an
encounter with the Champaign Police Department. A network
of affinity and solidarity from the Champaign-Urbana
Community has become a key component of the SHTC’s
endeavors. There is a hope within the SHTC that support
for the existence, continuation, and improvement of this
project can be generated, not only from the Catholic Workers’
House, but also from efforts in the larger community of
Champaign County. There are institutions, collectives, special
interest groups, and individuals working on the housing
issue in Champaign, whose involvement and assistance
would make a difference to the vitality of the TC.

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