HEAT ADVISORY today in Western Washington

Shoreline couple opens backyard, home to help homeless: ‘It makes our lives richer’

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SHORELINE, Wash. -- A Shoreline couple has transformed their backyard into a tent city to help the homeless, but the city says the couple is breaking zoning rules.

Tent after tent fill Brad and Kim Lancaster’s backyard.

The tent city called, “Camp United We Stand,” is where more than a dozen homeless people, including Aaron Ervin, have been living since November.

“Every morning I have my music I listen to. I have awesome people around me and that’s my motivation,” said Ervin.

Ervin has been homeless for six months and he says he’s grateful for the Lancasters' generosity.

The Lancasters opened up their backyard and their home in November.

Currently, nine people are living in their backyard, but it can hold up to 16 people.

The couple allows everyone to share one bathroom, the kitchen and a washing machine.

“We’ve been interested in helping homeless people for a while since things have gotten so bad with the economy,” said Kim Lancaster.

The Lancasters set up this tent city after the church hosting the camp had been sold, forcing everyone to move.

“We had gotten to know these people over time. They were at the church right across from my office and we had provided meals to them on occasion," Brad said.

“We were especially moved by the fact that there were children and pregnant women living at that camp and we wanted them to have a place and we thought this would work and it’s turned out that it does work,” said Kim.

Brad Lancaster is a lawyer and knows the law and he says the city’s zoning codes are being used to punish the homeless.

When someone complained about the tents and the people living in the Lancaster’s backyard, Brad negotiated with the city to allow the camp to stay until spring.

“People have been coming and going and it’s a good thing,” said Brad.

The group has about a month left before the camp will move to a new location.

“The relationship is more like family with these folks. It’s definitely rewarding and it makes our lives richer. It’s been a great opportunity and we’re glad to have it,” added Kim.

Meanwhile, Ervin says he’s working on getting his own housing by then.

“This is a beginning. They say some people have to hit rock bottom, well this is the bottom right here and there’s nothing but up from here,” said Ervin with a smile on his face.

King County Executive Dow Constantine has announced new initiatives to address the homeless problem, including funding for affordable housing and emergency shelter.

In the meantime, as 'Camp United We Stand' is set to close, Kim and Brad Lancaster will be looking at what it will take to replace the tents with tiny houses.