WHITE CENTER SHELTER? Where the proposal stands, where your County Councilmember stands, and an ‘open letter’

(King County photo)

Two inquiries we’ve had out since the end of last week, both related to the proposed 70-bed shelter in the former Public Health building at 10821 8th SW, have been answered today:

WHERE THE PROPOSAL STANDS: Tomorrow marks four weeks since the only public meeting (WCN coverage here) held on the idea so far. We reported earlier this week that online files show the county applied for a change-of-use permit for the building less than two weeks later, on September 28th. County Housing division spokesperson Sherry Hamilton confirmed that in a phone conversation today, responding to our Friday request for an update: “We are in the process now with the Department of Permitting and Environmental Review, to take a look at the building and see if it’s viable … we don’t know how long it will take. While we’re doing that, we’re also continuing to look at any other possibilities – we told the community we were open to suggestions, and we also asked Facilities to see if there are any (county-owned) buildings we missed.”

Is a November 1st move-in still a possibility? Hamilton said she couldn’t entirely rule it out but “there’s no permit” and the permit process also is what will provide “information on what it would take” to use the building as a shelter.

So when will the promised second community meeting be scheduled? Hamilton replied that “it would be premature” to schedule one before they know what the building needs to be safe for occupancy, so there would be no point in “bringing the community back together now … we don’t know what to tell them yet.”

The county has a webpage about the proposal but as far as we can tell from daily checks, has not added anything new in more than three weeks.

COUNTY COUNCILMEMBER JOE McDERMOTT: We e-mailed our area’s county councilmember Joe McDermott – who is also the chair of the council – to ask where he stands on the proposal, as we had not heard or seen him address it yet. He replied today via e-mail, saying he’s “supportive” of it, with context regarding why. Here’s his response in its entirety:

Eleven months ago, I stood with Executive Constantine and Mayor Murray as we declared a State of Emergency on Homelessness. Homelessness affects youth and adults across the region, and continues to be a growing problem. From 2014 to 2015, the number of unsheltered people increased by 21%. From 2015 to 2016, that figure rose to 4,505, an additional 19% increase. Likewise, the number of people who were homeless (including unsheltered, and people in transitional housing, shelters, and unhoused) increased to 10,688 in 2016. Clearly with over 10,000 people homeless in our community we need to do more.

I am committed to making meaningful progress on homelessness. An important way to achieve progress is to find more places where people can move out of the cold, and to a warm place where they can begin their journey to permanent housing.

I am also committed to ensuring that public resources are put to their best and optimal use. Standing empty, county owned buildings do the exact opposite. A temporary shelter that provides enhanced services – like connections to housing, employment, and health care – will make a difference and address need among people living in the community. Addressing homelessness not only benefits the people who are experiencing homelessness, it makes our communities stronger, healthier, and more connected.

White Center deserves to have resources that strengthen the community and meets the needs of residents – both those who are currently homeless, and those who are housed. I am supportive of efforts to bring services and shelter to people who are experiencing homelessness, who are already living across the county and in every community including White Center.

With the county’s former Public Health Clinic building vacant in White Center, the Department of Community and Human Services (DCHS) proposes to use the building as a shelter for people experiencing homelessness.

As DCHS assesses community feedback after its meeting last month and has further conversation with the community, I am certainly hearing from members of the community about their reactions.
The concerns voiced to me include public notice, site location, and the population of people who may receive services. DCHS is actively working now to respond to these issues with a group of residents. I look forward to their successful work, as we must also acknowledge that we have problem today – and that every day that we delay is another that a person is needlessly living unsheltered.

I am particularly aware that this proposal gives some concern about children and their safety. This troubles me, as it seems to promote a stigma that people who are homeless are more likely to in some way harm children. As a gay man, I am a member of a community about whom similar stigmas exist and I find this concern troubling. And it appears to overlook that, sheltered or not, there are people who are homeless in White Center now. That being said, I know that DCHS is looking for ways to relieve some of the community’s concerns. I encourage that work.

People experiencing homelessness come from across the county and in fact are currently living across the county. There are people who are homeless in White Center today. Surely people are more stable, healthier, better able to connect to employment and education, and able to secure housing more successfully when they have some form of shelter, rather than sleeping in our neighborhoods. Providing shelter provides some improved stability for all.

I am supportive of DCHS’s continuing work to use the former Public Health Clinic in White Center as a shelter and look forward to the updated proposal that will address community concerns when it is presented. Let’s see the proposal after further work and continue our dialogue. We all have a responsibility to address this emergency.

ADDED 7:51 PM: We have since received an “open letter” from Adrienne Quinn, who is director of the department responsible for the project:

You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

10 Responses to “WHITE CENTER SHELTER? Where the proposal stands, where your County Councilmember stands, and an ‘open letter’”

  1. I agree. “We all have a responsibility to address this emergency.” Toward that end, I have invited Mr. McDermott to our November 3rd North Highline Unincorporated Area Council meeting. I am writing to publicly reiterate that invitation. Mr. Constantine is also very welcome.

  2. thank you mr. mayor,lifes depend upon shelter,as well as sustained mental health and growth for adults as well as our future leaders

  3. Too bad about shelter will only provoke homeless people to come in the direction of a shelter instead of staying in outline areas where any trouble can be away from schools and hard working citizens. Isn’t safeco empty for the rest of the season? Go to little gas station on Roxbury and 15th at 5 am. You have to lock your car and lie your ass off that you’ve got no change, every morning! Post them up in safeco and make them show proof they’re trying to work. If they stay in industrial areas they can’t intimidate people

  4. Ms. Quinn, please join our NHUAC meeting on November 3rd.

  5. Question Mark Says:

    Hmmm … nothing in Councilmember McDermott’s email message acknowledge that King County is trying something radically different than the norm in homeless shelters here. That is, in terms of location in a largely residential area, in shelter operations and the hope of more comprehensive services.

    King County, in case anyone hasn’t noticed, is particularly squeezed in funding, and the location of the shelter is a reflection of that. It would be more expensive to acquire a building closer to the business district and more bus lines, for example.

    But when Ms. Quinn of King County says, “We are transformingshelters to ensure case management is available to all. We identify barriers to employment and housing, and work with local service providers, counselors and homeless people to help them overcome those barriers. We hold homeless services vendors accountable and measure their success in moving people to permanent housing. We follow national best practices that achieve results and improve lives,” she is stating the county’s *aspirations* for this shelter not its longtime practices.

    White Center deserves better than to be a guinea pig in yet another way for a local government that has little apparent actual regard for the community.


    I agree also with you Mark, however, I feel we are just fed a lot of rheteric from King County and only the power of the vote can take out our elected officials who truly do not look out for OUR safety. First, I highly doubt all these homeless are from White Center….How long have the “Lived” here to indicate residency. I was concerned that “homeless” escaping domestic violence…Do they have a restraining order in place, also an enraged partner will track down his victim and an endanger our safety, not too hard since Quinn already mentioned this Food Bank location..also the mentally ill…with murders and assaults because of non medication compliance….this is also a safety issue.

  7. Very well said Question Mark! Industrial areas near transportation is a great place. A shelter next to a park with trees and a lake! NOPE! The park is a great place to hide out during the day when they should be near businesses and other employable places. Most definitely not a lake bearing park in an already not respected part of the Seattle area. If you want to better an area you don’t offer up space to allow the stigma that follows homelessness. I myself a tax paying citizen honestly would rather see my tax dollars go towards a housing oriented situation, not a shelter that’s just basically a crash spot that would leave personsome wandering the neighborhood during the day. As most homeless people don’t have transportation, they likely would be more prone to hover than go on excursions to other areas to solve their situation, if in fact they even want to solve it. Having a crash spot would detour them from wanting to find an out

  8. White Center is 2.25 square miles in area. The three zip code areas from which the 1300 211 calls came from are 98146, 98106, and 98168. The total geographic area of those three zip codes is 24.02 square miles. White Center makes up 9% of that total area. By using 211 phone calls from such a large geographic area as evidence for the need for such a facility in White Center disproportionately skews one’s perception toward a greater need than there really is.

  9. Question Mark Says:

    I just had the opportunity to watch Seattle Mayor Ed Murray’s press conference, held yesterday, about both storm preparations and the homeless crisis in Seattle. In his comments he mentioned Seattle’s foray into a low-barrier homeless shelter, modeled after San Francisco’s Navigation Center and planned to have the same name in Seattle. No details about the location of this new shelter, but it is planned to be in operation by the first of next year according to the mayor.

    He also mentioned a significant tidbit: Seattle’s response to the homeless crisis depends largely on King County funding. (Seattle residents pay a King County property tax as do White Center residents.)

    But the city’s website does offer this description:
    “The service center will be modeled on the San Francisco Navigation Center, the first of its kind, dormitory-style living facility that provides people living outside with shower, bathroom, laundry and dining facilities, a place to store their belongings, as well as round-the-clock case management, mental and behavioral health services, and connections to benefit programs and housing, all in one location. This facility will prioritize placement for individuals who are currently unsheltered and offer them a secure place to stay and access additional supports in a 24/7 program.”

    Funding for the first year is pegged at $1.675 million. The King County budget line-item is listed at $700,000 and will support 2 50-bed shelters:
    “This funding will provide year round custodial service in White Center for 50 beds per night and year round security and building service in the Administration Building for 50 beds per [n]ight. This funding will provide 36,500 nights of shelter.”

    So once again, when it’s in their own back yard security is an important thing to spend money on. In White Center’s back yard, not so much.

    King County needs to be accountable to the White Center community to answer serious questions, like what sort of success the community can expect from a low barrier shelter the county appears to be proposing to fund at 31% of the budget, per shelter bed, of Seattle’s similar proposed service …

  10. Many more problems came out at the Community Meeting, So, these are for Mr McDermott & Ms. Quinn:
    there are NO Showers there, & will NOT be. Food will be prepared somewhere ???, and brought in for promised Dinner & Breakfast.
    No determination about how resident could keep their belongings Safe & stored at the site. Will they need to haul them around all day? Are they guaranteed their same bed when (if) they come back the next nite ? Or, is it “1st Come, 1st Served” every single nite ? What happens when it is full, & more folks still show up – especially in the “Emergency” times of cold weather, this is supposed to be for Temporary Emergency housing – as said in the Proposal.
    Are they going to turn away the overage folks, so they can go sleep in the Park or wherever, & try again the next nite ???