The original Tent City and Tent City 2, both created in the late 1990s, were created illegally and opposed by the City of Seattle. After being tolerated for some time, they were eventually forced to shut down. In March 2002, as a result of a legal battle, city attorney Tom Carr and SHARE/WHEEL attorney Ted Hunter signed a court ordered consent decree with SHARE, allowing Tent City only on private land (by invitation) and setting standards for its operation.
Based on the consent decree Tent City 3 was created and rotates around the Metro Seattle Core. Tent City 4 was created in May 2004 as an attempt to expand beyond the consent decree and use public land and resources, something the consent decree does not allow. This attempt was unsuccessful and Tent City 4 has since been relocated to eastern King County where it is church sponsored. Tent City rules do not allow drug or alcohol use, and evicts anyone caught stealing or committing other crimes within the camp. Stays for Tent City 3 have been around 3 weeks on average while Tent City 4 has had stays as long as 100 days. Cities have been adopting code amendments that limit stays to 60-90 days.
Tent City 4 (TC4) is a homeless encampment of up to 100 people created in May 2004 in eastern King County outside of Seattle. Residents are adult men and women, although there is a provision for quartering minor dependents in emergency situations. Residents may have their own tents or single men or women may stay in gender specific community tents. Dumpsters and portable toilets are provided by SHARE and there is a portable shower. The community currently relocates every three to four months on the property of Eastern King County churches upon invitation. Proponents state that the average length of residency per inhabitant is six weeks, with fewer long-term than short-term members.
Opponents challenge this claim citing SHARE'S testimony to King County and City of Seattle elected officials that they do not keep any data on residents in order to protect their privacy. While the percentage varies based on the occupants, many of the residents work part or full time for area businesses as day laborers or permanent employees. Tent City 4 governance consists of an Advisor similar to an executive, and a rotating Executive Committee elected by the community in a one person, one vote structure.
Tent City 4 has differentiated itself from other temporary encampments since 2004 due to its standard of requiring a signed "Code of Conduct" and performing warrant checks and sex offender checks on all potential residents. By signing the "Code of Conduct" the residents agree to abstain from drugs and alcohol while at the camp and share responsibility for site security and maintenance.
Tent City 4 advocates cite statements from local police and newspapers that there have been no increases in crime in the areas that Tent City 4 has been located in and that calls to police for a similar tent city in Seattle are about the same as an apartment complex with 100 residents. Opponents of Tent City 4 note that increases in law enforcement costs associated with TC4 are an impact to public safety that the rural areas TC4 visits are unprepared to handle. They also express concerns that analysis of actual police reports and raw data associated with occupancies actually show increases in crime rates conflicts with the official statements that are being made.
TC4 left Northshore United Church of Christ (NUCC) in Woodinville on August 12, 2006 ending their unpermitted 90 day stay at the church. In July 2007 the Washington Court of Appeals upheld the King County Superior Court ruling against SHARE and NUCC allowing the city to collect the fines levied. Tent City 4 had hoped to relocate to the First Evangelical Lutheran Church in Bothell and received permits to do so on August 11, but rejected the permit due to the number of conditions on the permit and instead moved to a backup site at Woodinville Unitarian Universalist Church (WUUC) after receiving a permit from King County.
Tent City was mainly self-governed, as police would not usually enter it unless a major crime was committed. One of the oldest residents of Tent City became the appointed "Mayor" and oversaw the operation of the city and helped deal with the crime that did occur. In one instance a resident who was leaving Tent City sold his shelter twice to two separate individuals, making a profit for himself and leaving the buyers to resolve the dispute. There were also citizens who turned to theft in order to make money. Despite these conditions, there were some residents who felt more secure in Tent City than they did in the Government shelters and chose to live in a self-regulated area where they could defend themselves.
When Tent City was closed, Home Depot evicted the residents with private security guards. They were allowed to briefly return to their homes to retrieve their possessions before being permanently removed from the area. This action was criticized by activist groups as an attempt by Home Depot to clear land to develop a downtown big box outlet. After the eviction, the residents were dispersed and forced to find new areas downtown where they could live or to move into shelters. Three years later, at the end of 2005, the land remained undeveloped and Home Depot has since opened a downtown outlet at Gerrard Square--a mall that sits on the corner of Pape and Gerrard. Shaughnessy Bishop-Stall, a writer, abandoned his middle class lifestyle to live in Tent City for a year. He received very little outside assistance and begged for money to sustain himself. He detailed his experiences in a book, listed in the link below. Information on the closure of Tent City Toronto Information on Down to This: Squalor and Splendour in a Big-city Shantytown by Shaughnessy Bishop-Stall, a writer who lived in Tent City for a year before its closure.
Tent cities are also found in the following cities: Chattanooga, Tennessee; Columbus, Ohio; Athens, Georgia; Reno, Nevada; and San Diego, California;
Prior to the election of Sheriff Joe Arpaio in 1993, the prisoner population in Maricopa County Jail, Arizona, the 4th largest jail system in the world, exceeded the maximum number of inmates allowed in its facilities. Prisoners were routinely released from custody prior to completing their sentence due to the overcrowding. In a study conducted in 1993 it was estimated that construction of a new facility would cost approximately $70,000,000. Sheriff Arpaio, concerned about the cost of a new facility and reasoning that military tents were good enough for the men and women of the U.S. armed forces who fought in Operation Desert Storm, ordered that a Tent Jail be constructed utilizing inmate labor . It consisted of Korean War era tents donated by the U.S. Military, and a 50 ft (15.4 m) observation tower with a vacancy sign mounted on the front. The final cost of the project was approximately $100,000 and it is capable of housing over 2400 Inmates.
All inmates housed outside in the tents (N yard for the males and O yard for the females) are "volunteers" in the "Working Inmate Program" and must agree to work an assigned job and comply with the Sheriff's grooming standards. Inmates who decline to work or refuse to groom themselves are relocated inside a hardened facility along with the rest of the prison population.
Denver International Airport (DIA) is sometimes referred to as 'Tent City' due to its construction using high tension white fabric, intended to represent the Rocky Mountains.