Saturday, July 9, 2011

The Biggest Problem for the Homeless is the Homeless

The homeless issue is a tough one for me. Once you meet and become friends with people who are or have been homeless, and once you have been on the brink of it, you tend to have a more tolerant perspective. I own that perspective.

What I thought was a done deal is in the news once again. I received the following letter from a neighbor via email, and though I empathize with their concerns I can't get on board their train.


"To ALL Residents:

As you may know, the City had temporarlly approved the opening of the former Fire Station #39 as a homeless shelter this last spring. This site sits adjacent to the new Fire Station and is close to Senior housing, library, residential apartments, and retail stores. The permit for Project Share/Wheel, which runs other Tent Cities through Seattle, ran out in May and the current building is empty, however there are plans afoot to re-open it as semi-permanent shelter.

Seattle area churches, led by leaders from Seattle Mennonite Church, have been quietly campaigning to get this site open permanently. They have faced little opposition in their efforts, however, this project is NOT A DONE DEAL. The City wants to hear from Lake City residents. and is holding Community Meeting on July 13th to get your input.

We have since learned that this site would be opened as a homeless shelter for approx. 100 people for 2-3 years at a cost of around $2 million dollars. The building then would be demolished. At the same time, the City of Seattle is cutting their police budget by $2 million. There are several reasons why this location doesn't make sense, whether PERMANENT or TEMPORARY.

Lake City seems to get the 'lion's share' of social services and homeless resources. Some of these are essential to low income and struggling individuals. McDermott House houses 75 homeless/chemically dependant veterans and others with chemcal additions. Seattle Mennonite church runs a soup kitchen/day lockers for the homeless. The VA's office of Community Outpatient Services is also quartered here. At the same time, we witness daily the repurcussions of having too many homeless resources concnetrated into 1 area--dirty/trash-littered sidewalks, human waste in storefront doorways, panhandlers, and people loitering the streets. This turns patrons away from businesses that are struggling to survive in an already challenging economy. While not unsympathetic to the plight of the homeless, some of these individuals appear to be the 'bottom of the barrel' in terms of not wanting to get off the streets or into treatment. They just want to do their thing and not be disburbed.

Apart from these reasons, there's also the question of zoning and safety--Fire stations normally house anywhere from 8-12 people. How can this building safely accommodate 100? Some of the churches that are campaigning for this shelter are not in the neighborhood, so the problem is 'out of sight, out of mind' for them, but is placed squarely right on to the residents and businesses that call Lake City home. When the 3 year term for vacating/demolishing this shelter is up, who's to say these churches won't lobby to keep it open? When someone is turned away or booted out of the shelter for bad behavior, where will they go? THE STREETS OF OUR NEIGHBORHOOD, that's where!

No other neighbohrood in Seattle has been asked to host a 3 year homeless shelter. This plan should be scrapped. It's the wrong plan, at the wrong time, and in the wrong place. There's other ways to address the needs of the homeless and balance the desires of the Community.

Please plan atttending this meeting with City officals and tell them enough is enough! The meeting will be held Wednesday, July 13th from 6PM - 8PM at the Lake City Community Center, 12531 28th Avenue NE (just north of the Lake City Library). If you can't attend the meeting, please consder signing the petition in the Luminaire lobby! We will present signed petitions to Seattle Dept. of Neighborhoods.

Thanks for your consideration,
[names withheld]"


This is not only prejudicial, it points to its own inadequacies. No "other ideas" are listed because this isn't the type of problem that has a clean solution. We don't have any other way of housing people who don't have the means to pay rent. What we do have is a big, empty building that is serving no other purpose, and $2,000,000 isn't a lot of money to shelter and tend to 100 people for that amount of time.

The police funding woes are a separate issue and I'm having no luck finding a correlation. That doesn't mean there isn't one, nor does it mean they aren't pulled from completely different funding sources. I'll keep looking.

Meanwhile, the homeless are the least of our worries in this neighborhood. It's the guys selling drugs to the homeless then beating them up, stealing things, breaking into cars and robbing convenience stores with axes (see previous post link) that we need to address. These individuals are not homeless.

I'd like to hear some of the author's "ideas" that he didn't include, and perhaps offer to do some proofreading for him, so I think I'll audit the meeting with my snarky hat on.


Blog post from a different party with a comment from our mayor:

The owner of the convenience store on my street was robbed by a man with an ox. She must’ve meant axe. Oxen are notoriously hard to conceal.

Please click the title of this post and head over to my other blog for the full story behind the headline...