Sally’s Camp opens in Bremerton

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Civic leaders dedicate a tent city for the homeless.

Sally’s Camp—the first modern-day tent city in Bremerton, Wash.—opened in February after months of planning and work. At the opening of the camp, which is a service of the Bremerton Corps, about 50 civic leaders met to dedicate the building.

Gerry McMurray and Erin Edmonson at Sally’s Camp in Bremerton, Wash. Photo by James Baker

Sally’s is open 24/7 and houses 11 families waiting for transition into permanent dwellings. Seven families have already secured new homes.

Planning began last summer when the city received complaints over waste at a homeless encampment in east Bremerton. The Outside Homeless Committee of the county’s Continuum of Care Coalition proposed numerous sites for relocation, but every suggestion was shot down. Opposition dissolved, however, when The Salvation Army proposed a tent city in its parking lot. Bremerton Mayor Patty Lent—a supporter of the project—declined the offer, stating that it would be built in an empty former municipal court building and operated and funded by the Army.

“We have more new homeless than we’ve ever had,” Lent said at the dedication. She added that many of the families would have an opportunity for permanent housing when construction of the affordable Bay Vista neighborhood was completed and residences became available.

“It’s the whole community. If we can’t do that, we’re not a community,” said Major Jim Baker, corps officer.

Sally’s Camp consists of 11 tents—all with mattresses—inside the structure. The camp includes showers, bathrooms, kitchenettes and a children’s play area. For safety, surveillance cameras are mounted inside and out.

“One of our tent families came to a Sunday service and Wednesday Bible study. This is what we wanted to happen,” Baker said.

According to Baker, Sally’s Camp will only be open six months, after that the future for the homeless is uncertain. Baker advised that two major questions must be addressed: 1) Where will the homeless go if the facility closes permanently and 2) If it remains open, where would funding for utilities come from, especially in winter?

Richard LeMieux, author of Breakfast at Sally’s: One Homeless Man’s Inspirational Journey, visited the site. “I wish this was here when I was traveling around in my journey,” he said.


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