VIDEO: Conversation with the county @ North Highline Community Service Area Town Hall

May 30th, 2018 Tracy Posted in King County, White Center news 1 Comment »

By Tracy Record
White Center Now editor

It’s the county’s chance to have a conversation with you, explained County Council Chair (and District 8 rep) Joe McDermott, emceeing last night’s Community Service Area Town Hall for North Highline/White Center.

A parade of high-ranking county officials followed, as the event at Seola Gardens unfolded. Something new this year: The county is launching its new initiative to serve local areas in a different way. (Added: Full video of the event:)

Specifically:

“How do we act as a city?” is what deputy executive Fred Jarrett said about the launching of the Department of Local Services. That’s especially relevant to White Center, an urban but unannexed/unincorporated area.

Harold Taniguchi – director of transportation, who is working on the Department of Local Services initiative – said it will be up and running by the start of next year. He said the department should make things run more efficiently and effectively, with a focus on customer service. And, “we hope to be out in your communities in an organized way …” with more listening. “You get the feeling that sometimes we are listening – we hope to change that up.”

As part of the Local Services launch, some departments will be no more – Transportation among them, he noted. (Transit is splitting out and becoming its own department.) But transportation projects are in the works for the area all the same, Taniguchi promised – the 8th/108th mini-roundabout is on the way, and one at 8th/102nd will follow, he said, also mentioning drainage work on South 96th

He ran the crowd – estimated at 40+ – through an on-the-spot online poll via Slido.com, with such questions as, how should the Department of Local Services communicate with you?

Next, Sheriff Mitzi Johanknecht cited a “five-month run of re-energizing the department,” so far. She says she’s working on a strategic plan, and community involvement is coming up. “It’s been an honor to serve so far.”

Deborah Jacobs, director of the Office of Police Oversight, followed the sheriff. Part of her office’s charge is to “bring the civilian voice.” She added that her department looks at the trees as well as the forest, and offers policy feedback to the sheriff. They’re also supposed to take on independent investigations, but that’s still subject to “collective bargaining with the unions.”

Kevin Brown, director of Natural Resources and Parks, mentioned that Movies in the Park will be at Seola Gardens at August 4th. Lots going on at Steve Cox Memorial Park, he added, including a kids-cooking program and more. He touted the June 6th Peace in the Hood jobs event (featured here on WCN). Also at Cox Park, the new $3 million field project for multiple sports is in the works – “one of the first publicly available synthetic field in this area.” The work means Jubilee Days needs a new carnival spot this year and that has not yet been worked out, Brown said.

Jake Tracy from the Department of Permitting and Environmental Review spoke next – marijuana is his main job and there’s a study happening right now regarding unincorporated areas, including a public-comment period. It’s related to concerns about clustering of marijuana businesses. It’s studying five areas including whether zoning needs to change to open up new areas “to meet our allocation from the state” and how unincorporated areas are being affected by the way things are. They’re studying complaint and crime data. The survey is taking comments through the end of June.

Mark Ellerbrook from the Department of Community and Human Services, who manages the county health and homeless services, followed. He said his department also is working on the opioid crisis, including helping people who want help get it immediately. He ran through a long list of other services his department provides, including administering the Veterans, Seniors, & Human Services Levy.

After short speeches, poll results from Harold – 15 participants, Sheriff and Parks were the single words with the most positive effect on the community.

Social media – “local blogs” were included – won for communication choice, with e-mail right behind. Safety and homelessness were the most-cited community challenges. And there was a long list of suggestions for what the county could do to help the community.

Then – open microphone for questions. Liz Giba, president of the North Highline Unincorporated Area Council, was first. She had sent a letter to various officials about the Burien murders of two young women and said she was troubled to not receive a single reply. She is concerned about the concentration of poverty in White Center and what’s being done to make it a more economically healthy community – more healthy overall. “What are you doing? What plan is there? Is there any answer?”

McDermott replied, “Is there enough of an answer? Probably not.” But some steps are being taken, he said, citing for example the Best Starts for Kids levy and its investment in youth. He also cited the expansion of the Veterans Levy. Giba followed up with her long-held concerns about another low-income development in the works at 8th/108th – more “concentration of poverty” – “when you continue to shove more people who need help into a small space, (a few) square miles, there’s going to be trouble.” She asked the county to reconsider what’s happening with the 8th/108th site. She said that it could be a home for various groups/agencies (which is part of what’s proposed for the possible future project). McDermott added that more housing needs to be built and that might result in “more than some people would like to see in some communities.”

The sheriff said that the investigation of the murders continues and she is traveling out of town soon to visit with one victim’s family. She acknowledged that the department has very little resources devoted to gangs but they’re trying to work more on that “across boundaries.” Gangs are a culture. “We’re close to solving” the murders, “but so much goes into this, and much of it, you can’t see.”

Asked by Carol from Myers Way about homelessness, Councilmember McDermott said it’s still a work in progress. He was also asked about minimum wage and whether the county might follow Seattle’s lead. He said it would make more sense if the state looked at its law.

Ellerbrook then took on the affordable-housing issue – saying 80,000 to 90,000 units is the current estimated gap countywide. More is needed in every community, he said. Over the course of a year, 30,000 people experience homelessness, he said. 24,000 people came in for services and many didn’t need them again. “Employment is critical,” he agreed. If someone becomes ill, for example, they might lose their (expensive) apartment and possibly never be able to get into one again. He also brought up common concerns that unsheltered people have about shelters, and how it might mean more healthy people, more people connected to services, if they can improve the shelter system. The county is working on its budgeting for homeless services and both navigation and services for vehicle residents are two areas they’re working on.

Barbara Dobkin of NHUAC brought up a petition the group had circulated at last year’s Jubilee Days, talking about the area’s low-opportunity status. They want the group to study issues such as WC’s housing situation.

Community advocate Gill Loring voiced concern that the county still is not reaching out to the diverse groups that make up the area’s population – pointing out that almost everyone at the meeting was white, until a youth group arrived. “I don’t hear it from the county, I don’t hear it from Dow, I don’t hear it from the council,” he said. ”… let’s all come together, let’s be one community … why can’t the county do something about that?”

McDermott responded by explaining the race-and-social-justice lens through which the county does its work, while acknowledging that outreach efforts need to be more successful. He also mentioned that the group was largely older, too.

It was then explained that the youth who had arrived are members of an internship program, White Center to White House, and one of them spoke next. She expressed concerns about the new youth detention center on Capitol Hill. McDermott said he believes the new center is necessary “until we reach our aspirational goal of zero youth detention.” The two had some back and forth. She wondered why community-based programs couldn’t be used instead. He said we are still at a point where some youth need to be separated from the community “for their own protection and that of the community.”

Jarrett also took the microphone to say that the county also is working on a plan to see how they will get to zero youth detention. He spoke about the subpar conditions at the building that the new center will replace. He also said part of it has been “reprogrammed” to be a nonsecure area where kids who need a safe place to go during a family crisis, for example, can be helped. And he went further, saying that work to get to a world where youth detention isn’t needed will take years.

The next person with a question/concern, also a youth, said that White Center schools (such as Evergreen High School) need more rigorous courses, more teachers of colors, more security, more technology access, and more building improvements. He presented McDermott with a letter, and he in turn promised to share it with state legislators and Highline school board members. He said that through the Sound Transit taxing district, King County will be getting a small amount of money to invest in education for the next 20 years.

Then a statement from community member Bob Price: The cause of homelessness needs to be addressed, not just the symptoms.

After him, Rudy Garza from the Coalition of Drug-Free Youth, who said that marijuana access is an increasing problem for youth. They see the proliferation of stores, they see the prevalent use, and figure it’s OK. “Where does it stop?” McDermott noted that legalization resulted from a statewide vote of the people.

Tracy said his work includes – as he had said earlier – looking at ways to avoid clusters of stores and to mitigate marijuana’s effects on communities. “Educating youth on why they shouldn’t use marijuana” is very important, he said. A discussion of shops’ locations ensued as well as where the tax money from marijuana goes. “We will have a report in the very near future,” Jarrett said. He added that a larger concern for people should be what percentage of their sales tax comes back to the county. Putting together the report is very complex, others added.

Another speaker reiterated concerns about the concentration of marijuana shops in Top Hat, and contended that they are keeping other businesses from coming to the area. “(It’s) hurting the community in so many ways,” she said.

Next concern voiced: Overgrown right of way. Taniguchi asked that specific locations be provided to reps at the meeting so they can check it out and potentially take action.

Then with one final question about the county partnering with schools – McDermott reiterated that he will share the youth concern with the school district, Jarrett advised focusing on the Legislature – the event wrapped up. The questioner countered that he doesn’t believe funding would be required for the county to partner with the district.

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TONIGHT: King County Community Service Area Town Hall for White Center/North Highline

May 29th, 2018 Tracy Posted in King County, White Center news Comments Off on TONIGHT: King County Community Service Area Town Hall for White Center/North Highline

Got a question, issue, comment for/about your local government? Tonight, bring it to the annual Community Service Area Town Hall! Your County Councilmember Joe McDermott is scheduled to be there along with representatives of various county agencies/services. It’s set for 7-9 pm tonight (Tuesday, May 29th) at Seola Gardens, 10900 4th Pl. SW. Just show up!

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Bryan Hastings receives King County MLK Medal of Distinguished Service for rescuing Evergreen Pool

April 30th, 2018 Tracy Posted in Evergreen High School, King County, White Center news 1 Comment »

(WCN photo by Patrick Sand)

As a professional firefighter, Bryan Hastings (above right) was already a hero when he launched a different type of rescue – keeping Evergreen Pool from shutting down. Today, his years of work on that earned him a county honor, presented by King County Council Chair Joe McDermott (above left), whose office sent the full announcement:

In 2009, White Center’s Evergreen Pool was a victim of county budget cuts, closing after decades of providing aquatic fun to the people of south King County. Bryan Hastings directed the effort to establish a non-profit to help revive the red-brick pool and has become the Executive Director of WhiteWater Aquatics Management, the agency operating the pool. Metropolitan King County Council Chair Joe McDermott today recognized Hastings work on keeping this community asset open by presenting him with the Martin Luther King, Jr. Medal of Distinguished Service.

“From tirelessly raising money to the countless hours of his own time spent working on the pool himself, Bryan Hastings has dedicated himself to the Evergreen Community Pool,” said McDermott. “His work, as a volunteer, to ensure the pool remains an asset for all in the White Center community embodies the spirit of the MLK Medal of Distinguished Service.”

Evergreen Pool is in the unincorporated community of White Center and has been serving its residents, along with serving the city of Burien, for over four decades. The 2009 closure of the pool impacted communities that had been using the pool for generations.

Hastings, an Assistant Chief with the Seattle Fire Department, started as a volunteer in the effort to reopen the pool, helping raise nearly $500,000 in modernizations and improvements from various sources including the State and County.

Evergreen Pool is not only a location for pool parties, swim lessons, and exercise classes, it has become a resource for the homeless community in the area, providing shower facilities for the homeless through a partnership with human service agencies Neighborhood House and Mary’s Place.

The annual presentation of the MLK Medal of Distinguished Service is the Council’s way of thanking those who have made a particularly strong impact on the county and to encourage others to renew their dedication to serve their community.

This is the third year Councilmembers have recognized individuals in their districts who have answered the question asked by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: “What are you doing for others?”

Checking the WCN archives, we see the pool was re-dedicated as Evergreen Community Aquatic Center exactly eight years ago tomorrow!

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4 White Center-area organizations get King County grants

February 7th, 2018 Tracy Posted in King County, White Center news Comments Off on 4 White Center-area organizations get King County grants

Four organizations in unincorporated North Highline are receiving King County Community Service Area Grants, as just announced:

King County Executive Dow Constantine today announced 65 volunteer-led community events and projects that will be expanded in unincorporated communities with grants of up to $3,000 each.

The Community Service Area Grants will enhance projects and events, such as First Aid classes, local music events, salmon habitat restoration, emergency preparedness, purchase a refrigerator for a food bank, and more.

“Volunteer-driven projects that refurbish playgrounds and pools, restore forest trails, and add street lights make our communities safer, more vibrant, and better connected,” said Executive Constantine. “Our investments will catalyze the work led by volunteers so it benefits more people throughout King County.”

The community groups successfully competed for a total of $90,000 in grants, which range between $290 and $3,000 each. Community organizations are required to match at least one quarter of the total project costs. The projects must be accessible to all residents, regardless of race, income, or language spoken.

The local recipients (see the full countywide list here):

WHITE CENTER
Sea Mar CHC – Wall mural 8 $ 1,750
Southwest Little League – Baseball equipment – bats – $ 1,000
White Center Community Development Association – White Center Spring Clean Event – $ 1,000
Whitewater Aquatics Management Pool motor – $ 2,250

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Youth sports grants for White Center organizations

January 30th, 2018 Tracy Posted in King County, Sports, White Center news Comments Off on Youth sports grants for White Center organizations

Just announced today – with local organizations on the list!

King County Executive Dow Constantine today announced a series of youth sports grants totaling $3.6 million. The grants increase opportunities and access for young people to engage in healthy physical activity through new or improved facilities or programs, especially those serving under-resourced communities.

“From new sports fields in North Bend to a mountain biking program in Auburn, these grants will not only support traditional sports, but will open opportunities and improve access for youth wanting to enjoy more active lifestyles,” said King County Parks Director Kevin Brown.

The Youth and Amateur Sports Grants program evaluates programs and projects based on community need, with an emphasis on projects in underserved areas with low- to moderate-income families and higher health disparities.

“These grants support healthier communities by providing more places and more pathways for kids to play and be active,” said King County Council Chair Joe McDermott. “This is especially important in neighborhoods that have been historically under-resourced, so there is a focus on addressing disparities to access and facilities.”

The grants, which range from $6,750 to $250,000, are administered by the King County Department of Natural Resources and Parks, Parks and Recreation Division.

The program is funded and sustained through a 1 percent car-rental tax authorized by the Legislature in 1993. Funds can only be used for programs or capital projects that increase access to health-enhancing physical activities.

Formerly called the Youth Sports Facilities Grants, King County has awarded roughly $15 million in grants since the program’s inception in 1993, creating nearly 350 new or renovated youth sports facilities throughout the county.

In 2017, the King County Council restructured the program, providing Council-directed grants, as well as competitive grants, to non-profit organizations, local governments, and school districts. Funding is available for sports and recreation programs, as well as for capital improvement projects.

The local grants:

Highline Public Schools
Evergreen Turf Field
$250,000

****

The Salvation Army
Salvation Army White Center Gym
$41,000

White Center Youth Basketball
$21,245

White Center Youth Futsal
$20,168

****

White Center Community Development Association
Wolverine Boosters Summer Camp
$77,100

Whitewater Aquatics Management
Evergreen Pool (White Center)
$46,836

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King County Executive’s new idea to help unincorporated areas: Department of Local Services

January 22nd, 2018 Tracy Posted in King County, White Center news 4 Comments »

Annexation doesn’t seem to be on the horizon, but unincorporated North Highline (and other parts of the county) still need services. So King County Executive Dow Constantine has announced this new idea:

Executive Constantine today proposed combining the Department of Permitting and Environmental Review (DPER) with various other County functions to create a new department focused on the needs of the unincorporated areas, including Redmond Ridge, East Federal Way, Fairwood and East Renton, North Highline, Skyway, White Center, and West Hill.

Along with DPER, the proposed Department of Local Services could include:
• Road Services and Airport Divisions of the Department of Transportation,
• Community Service Area program of the Department of Natural Resources and Parks,
• On-site Septic System and Plumbing & Gas Piping programs from the Environmental Health Division of Public Health-Seattle & King County.

“The quarter-million people who live in Unincorporated King County make up what would be the state’s second-largest city, with its own particular challenges and priorities,” said Executive Constantine. “The Department of Local Services will improve how we provide direct and contracted services, including roads, public safety, clean water, and access to opportunity. The department director will have a seat on my cabinet to ensure we bring a focus on performance and accountability to all that we do for the residents of Unincorporated King County.”

The Executive named Harold Taniguchi, Director of the King County Department of Transportation, to manage the transition to the new organization pending the appointment of a Cabinet-level leader reporting directly to the Executive.

“We will be reaching out to residents of unincorporated King County to get their insights on how we can improve customer service and develop accountability and performance measures to better serve them,” said Taniguchi. “As we navigate our way through this process, we will be working closely with our valued employees and their respective unions to ensure a smooth and positive transition.”

The proposal calls for establishing the new Department effective Jan. 1, 2019, on the same date that the Executive has proposed Metro Transit to become a standalone department. Existing revenues could fund the Department of Local Services.

“I am excited, eager, and proud to see the Executive respond to residents in the unincorporated areas and reform how we deliver the services they need and deserve,” said King County Councilmember Kathy Lambert, whose district serves a wide area of urban and rural northeast King County. “I look forward to working with him on the creation of a department that can oversee the quality of services for our urban unincorporated and rural residents, and monitor to ensure their proper delivery.”

King County is the local service provider for roughly 250,000 people in the unincorporated areas of the county; taken together, Unincorporated King County would be the second-largest city in the state.

Senior Deputy Executive Fred Jarrett led an internal initiative that studied ways to improve how the county delivers direct and contracted services, including roads, public safety, clean water, and increased access to opportunities.

More details will be addressed in the formal legislation the Executive plans to send in February to the King County Council, and in the development of the Executive Proposed Budget for the 2019-2020 biennium. The Council has the statutory authority for establishing Executive departments, and for adoption of the County budget.

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King County may have $ for you: Unincorporated Areas Grant Program application time

September 28th, 2017 Tracy Posted in King County, White Center news Comments Off on King County may have $ for you: Unincorporated Areas Grant Program application time

Have an idea that needs $? The county might be able to help. This week’s announcement:

CSA Unincorporated Areas Grant Program

Purpose: The purpose of the Community Engagement Grants is to fund community projects that offer unincorporated area residents in the Community Service Areas an opportunity to participate and be more connected in their communities. Funded projects must demonstrate how activities are accessible to all residents regardless of race, income, or language spoken.

DUE: Applications are due by 5 p.m. on Friday, November 17, 2017.

Funds Available: A total of $90,000 will be reimbursed for projects in 2018. The King County Department of Natural Resources and Parks Community Service Areas Program will provide funds to selected projects through a letter of award and Memorandum of Agreement. Amounts will be limited to less than $5,000 per project.

Please use the King County Community Service Areas Grant Program Application Template for your application.

Applications must be received by 5 p.m. on November 17, 2017 via the following:

Electronically: Marissa.alegria@kingcounty.gov

Physically at the following location:

Dept. of Natural Resources and Parks, Director’s Office ATTN: Marissa Alegria
201 South Jackson Street, Suite 700
Seattle, WA 98104

The application packet is available (here).

Marissa Alegria, CSA Grant staff lead will be available to respond to questions by phone at 206-477-4523 or e-mail at Marissa.alegria@kingcounty.gov or by setting up an appointment to meet at a more convenient location.

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More help for Evergreen Community Aquatic Center: $61,000 from King County

August 15th, 2017 Tracy Posted in Evergreen Pool, King County, White Center news 1 Comment »

Eight years after King County closed what was then Evergreen Pool — which was rescued by a community nonprofit months later – the county is pitching in to help with some updates.

County Council chair Joe McDermott, who represents White Center, West Seattle, and vicinity on the council, joined Evergreen Aquatic Center’s Bryan Hastings and Paloma Duarte at the pool this afternoon to officially announce a $61,000 county grant. Here’s what they all had to say:

The money is from the county’s Youth and Amateur Sports Fund. Hastings says the money will help with badly needed mechanical updates to not only the pool’s mechanical infrastructure but also to its shower system – which is also serving homeless people who need access to showers, including guests at the White Center shelter operated by Mary’s Place. Hastings says the system improvements will extend the pool’s life by decades.

Haven’t been to the pool? 606 SW 116th in south White Center. Find schedule and lesson info on its website.

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New county initiative for unincorporated areas

August 11th, 2017 Tracy Posted in King County, White Center news 3 Comments »

Just in:

King County Executive Dow Constantine today announced that Senior Deputy Executive Fred Jarrett will take on a major new body of work, leading an initiative to explore new and better ways to serve the people of unincorporated King County.

About a quarter of a million people live in unincorporated King County, nearly as many as in the County’s second- and third-largest cities – Bellevue and Kent – combined. The initiative will study ways to improve how direct and contracted services – including roads, public safety, clean water, and increasing access to opportunity – are delivered in unincorporated areas even as the County’s General Fund revenues fall behind population growth and inflation due to revenue limitations imposed by the state.

“The people of our unincorporated urban and rural communities have unique needs, from maintaining long stretches of country roads to ensuring public safety across a vast territory,” said Executive Constantine. “With his long record of public service, Fred has the experience and strong community connections to lead our efforts to improve how we deliver services across departments and agencies. His expertise in innovation and accountability, and his understanding of our commitment to equity and social justice, will ensure King County government works at the highest level for every resident.”

“Unincorporated areas and cities with whom we contract services have their own priorities and challenges,” said Jarrett. “I look forward to working with our County departments and many community stakeholders to understand how we could make meaningful changes, and I look forward to getting them done.”

Previously a state senator, Jarrett served four terms in the state House of Representatives, after stints as Mercer Island Mayor and as a Mercer Island City Council and school board member. He also had a 35-year career at The Boeing Co.

“I am very excited to see the county take the next very important and vital step in its role as a local government provider for over 200,000 people,” said King County Councilmember Kathy Lambert. “This will allow us to be more precise in how and what services we deliver to our citizens. Then we will have the data to see how we can improve and provide even better quality services. This is a great step forward for county unincorporated areas.”

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#SeaHomeless: Following up on the Mary’s Place White Center shelter after 3 months

June 28th, 2017 Tracy Posted in King County, White Center news Comments Off on #SeaHomeless: Following up on the Mary’s Place White Center shelter after 3 months

(EDITOR’S NOTE: WCN and WSB are participating in the multiple-media-outlet #SeaHomeless day of special coverage. For the occasion, we revisited what is the White Center/West Seattle area’s only fulltime shelter, which opened in late March. This story appears on both websites.)


(Toys on a shelf in the ‘mini-mart’ at the Mary’s Place shelter in White Center)

By Tracy Record
Editor, White Center Now and West Seattle Blog

It’s the shelter that almost wasn’t.

At an acrimonious community meeting last September – when King County revealed it was weeks away from opening a shelter in its former Public Health clinic at 8th SW/SW 108th in White Center – some threatened legal action to stop it.

But that’s not what happened.

Instead, community leaders and other residents formed a task force. They made a counter-proposal. Instead of the low-barrier, adults-only, overnight shelter that the county wanted the Salvation Army to operate, the counter-proposal was for a 24-hour family shelter to be operated by Mary’s Place, which specializes in helping homeless families.

The county agreed. Mary’s Place agreed. The followup community meeting in January had applause instead of shouting. And three months ago, the shelter opened. No lawsuits. No protests.

We toured on March 21st, just before the first families arrived. And that was the last time we visited the shelter – until this week, when we requested to drop in for a followup.

Our tour guide and interviewee was Liz McDaniel, family-shelter developer for Mary’s Place, who has been with the organization for eight years, dating back to when it was just the operator of a “day center” – now, it’s so much more. She understates her role: “I get to open all our new sites.” And in fact, she had opened a new one the night before our conversation, at the opposite end of King County, up in Shoreline.

But we were there to talk about White Center, the only fulltime shelter in the WC/West Seattle area. As of our Tuesday morning interview, 15 families were there, 55 people – 20 adults and 35 children. And there’s still room for more – official capacity is 70 people.

Another statistic: Since opening June 21st, the shelter “has served more than 3,400 bed nights.”

“Guests,” as Mary’s Place refers to the people it’s sheltering, are referred by the county program Coordinated Entry for All, which works with the 211 hotline.

And McDaniel says they are keeping “the promise that we made to the community, that we would prioritize families that are already in this neighborhood.”

Three months in, they are still completing renovations/additions that are needed so that the former clinic can truly serve as a livable space. One that catches our eye immediately upon entry fills a small atrium/courtyard:

The play area is the work of the Seattle University College of Engineering, we’re told. And like so many other things at the shelter, volunteers helped make it happen, including those who cleared the area of its weedy plantings.

Other work that is expected to be done by mid-July is adapting a restroom to make it accessible, and adding two showers in what was a storage area so the building has three – the Evergreen Aquatic Center, a mile away, has in the meantime been making its showers available to shelter families.

Crews also are converting another storage area into a laundry room:

In the meantime, all the laundry has to be sent offsite. And a “small kitchen” is being added as well, so some cooking can be done at the shelter.

So what happens during the course of a day at the shelter?

For the adults- “services that focus on housing and employment.” Throughout the open spaces in the shelter, there are signs, and set-aside areas, devoted to those focuses.

They get help working on applications, determining what are their barriers to housing, getting “tools to move forward.” The shelter has been open almost the exact length of an “average stay across all our locations” – 87 days. But three families already have moved out into housing, despite the challenge of rising rents, “harder and harder for families to afford, particularly if they’re a single-parent household – it’s challenging to find something to afford within Seattle. We spread the branches wide and look all over the place, White Center, Burien, Renton, Kent, places that families can afford.”

Mary’s Place also has launched a new “diversion program to help divert families from shelter directly into housing,” which requires “flexible funding,” so if you’re looking to donate money – that program could use it, she adds.

For employment, guests spend time filling out resumes, looking for openings, getting practice in “mock interviews.”

For the kids, there’s an immediate effort to be sure they are enrolled in school, and to arrange for transportation “within 48 hours of arriving.” This location is on school-bus routes, though at some of the other Mary’s Place sites in the region, they work with Metro, taxicabs, “whatever.” Now that school is out for the summer, the focus is on activities; McDaniel says they have been “working all year” on getting scholarships to day camps around the area, and kids are already out at camps ranging from art to environmental activities.

Health care also is available through the shelter, with a nurse on site part of the time.

Some aspects of shelter life involve clearing up misconceptions. McDaniel says some presume that shelters can be “a scary place – but we work hard to create a safe and welcoming community, where families can sit down and have a meal together, where kids can play appropriate to their age, where people feel welcomed as soon as they walk in the door … A lot of families are afraid they’ll lose their children when people find out they’re homeless. But your kids can’t be taken away simply (because of that).”

While Mary’s Place works on “a 90-day model … some families have more extended barriers” and it takes longer for them to get back onto their feet. Especially refugee families, McDaniel notes. Most of those who Mary’s Place is serving now are from East Africa, particularly Eritrea, though MP also has seen “our first few Syrian families,” as well as some from South Asia and Central America.

Wherever they are from, Mary’s Place emphasizes “the inherent belief that our families are good enough, and have the capability, to take care of their own families – they were housed at one point and they’ll be housed again. They have the tools to meet their own needs. There’s just a one-time gap – 97 percent of families experiencing homelessness will never experience it again. We help them navigate a really hard system at a traumatic time in their lives. We do it better together.”

Those working “together” at this shelter include about 20 staffers as well as the 55 guests, and volunteers. The guests have responsibilities beyond seeking housing and (if not already employed) work: They are assigned chores, for which points are awarded.

Those points can be spent at an on-site “store” with items such as clothing.

The youngest guests are able to earn points, too, and they have what the sign on the door dubs the “mini-mart” (top photo).

We asked McDaniel if the process of getting the shelter up to full speed has brought any surprises. “I think the biggest kind of joy and surprise has been the way the community has surrounded the space … we saw that in the work group and the process to get in. That has not waned. Between the schools and organizations already in the neighborhood” – she mentions White Center-headquartered WestSide Baby in particular – “(people) have stood alongside us and provided tools and resources to be sure this is a sustainable program in the community … White Center is such a strong community. People continued to bring in meals and donations and volunteer, and that excitement hasn’t gone away.”

A far cry from last September’s rancor.

WHAT YOU CAN DO: There’s a “daily need” for volunteers at the shelter – especially to help with the kids, “with outings, and during the school year with homework help,” McDaniel says. No prerequisites except to be “people who like people.” Information on volunteering is on the Mary’s Place website.

For donatable items – blankets and diapers remain their biggest need. Yes, the kids at the shelter right now include babies.

And the biggest need of all is space – this shelter is open, the aforementioned new one in Shoreline is open, but the need for more shelter space around the metro area continues. Despite that, this shelter is not intended to be permanent; the county and nonprofits are working on a long-range plan for a mixed-use project at the site that would include housing as well as headquarters for several nonprofits. That’ll be the topic of a separate followup.

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VIDEO: North Highline concerns, questions, and answers @ King County Community Service Area ‘town hall’

June 8th, 2017 Tracy Posted in King County, White Center news Comments Off on VIDEO: North Highline concerns, questions, and answers @ King County Community Service Area ‘town hall’

1:06 AM: In case you wanted to go to Wednesday night’s “town hall” for North Highline, part of the King County Community Service Area program, but couldn’t – we recorded the presentations and Q/A. It was held at Seola Gardens.

Of the three top-billed county officials mentioned in previews, King County Council Chair Joe McDermott – who represents our area on the council – and Deputy County Executive Rhonda Berry were there; Sheriff John Urquhart was not – his chief of technical services (including 911) Patti Cole-Tindall was there instead. Many other county officials there, including County Assessor John Arthur Wilson, County Transportation Department Director Harold Taniguchi, County Parks Director Kevin Brown, and more – you will see all the introductions at the start of our video, which runs an hour and a half and is unedited. Alan Painter, manager of the Community Service Area program, facilitated.

7:33 AM: One attendee, community advocate Gill Loring, tells WCN that a participating county official talked with him afterward to correct something she had said – Karen Freeman from the county executive’s staff said that local businesses are not required to have garbage pickup, but later acknowledged that’s inaccurate – they are.

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‘Best Starts for Kids’ road-show meeting in White Center on May 10th

April 17th, 2017 Tracy Posted in King County Comments Off on ‘Best Starts for Kids’ road-show meeting in White Center on May 10th

So what are you getting for the voter-approved “Best Starts for Kids” property-tax increase? You get the chance to find out during a “road show” meeting coming up in White Center, one of multiple meetings that are happening around the county:

The following meetings are hosted by Best Starts for Kids. Each 1.5 hour meeting will be focused on Best Starts for Kids’ information with numerous BSK staff present. You can expect a short presentation followed by breakout sessions with BSK staff. You’ll have an opportunity to learn more about the RFP process, data, evaluation and community partnerships.

The White Center meeting is:

Wednesday, May 10, 2017 @ 6:30 p.m.
Bethaday Community Learning Center
605 SW 108th

The list of other meetings around the county is here. Find out more about BS4K here.

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PHOTOS: Opening day for Mary’s Place @ White Center Family Shelter

March 21st, 2017 Tracy Posted in King County, White Center news 5 Comments »

There are signs … and smiles. We visited the new White Center Family Shelter at midday today as they were expecting their first guests to arrive … a family of nine, according to executive director Marty Hartman of Mary’s Place, which is operating the shelter and has been working intensively to get it ready, with help from what Hartman declared “an amazing community.”

What was a vintage-1961 public-health clinic is now ready to temporarily house families totaling up to 35 people in phase 1 … and then when more features can be added, such as additional showers, they’ll be able to accept a few dozen more. Hartman showed us around between this morning’s job fair and guest arrival.

Welcoming messages are everywhere inside the converted clinic:

It’s remarkable to think about how far this plan has come with community support. Just six months ago, first word of what was at the time going to be a low-barrier adults-only shelter brought furious opposition. Mary’s Place was not involved at that time; they were brought in after King County backpedaled and worked with a community committee to decide how to best use the ex-clinic, and the decision was to make it a family shelter, operated by Mary’s Place. The building needed some modifications, and more are to come, but for now, not only are there places for people to sleep, there are also rooms for kids and teens activities, with murals painted by volunteers:

And lots of storage, with items awaiting those who need them:

Speaking of items, we asked what if anything was needed, in terms of donations? Here’s the current list:

Volunteer help also will be welcome – you can sign up through the Mary’s Place website.

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FOLLOWUP: Shelter set to open Tuesday

March 17th, 2017 Tracy Posted in King County, People, White Center news Comments Off on FOLLOWUP: Shelter set to open Tuesday

As mentioned earlier this week, there’s another work party at the future White Center family shelter at 8th/108th tomorrow (Saturday). And today, King County confirms that the shelter is set to officially open on Tuesday (March 21st). More to come.

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North Highline Unincorporated Area Council: Shelter, equity, crime updates @ March meeting

March 5th, 2017 Tracy Posted in King County, North Highline UAC, White Center news Comments Off on North Highline Unincorporated Area Council: Shelter, equity, crime updates @ March meeting

By Linda Ball
Reporting for White Center Now

“Incredibly close” is how Liz McDaniel from Mary’s Place says the new White Center shelter is to opening.

McDaniel didn’t offer a specific date at Thursday’s meeting of the North Highline Unincorporated Area Council, but she said that by the middle of this month they could have families in the former King County Public Health building at 10821 8th Ave. SW.

(WCN photo from March 11th work party @ future shelter site)

She reported robust attendance at the recent work party (see WCN coverage here), where volunteers came and cleaned inside the facility and did yard work outside, leaving the place “shining.” The fire systems have been updated, but currently there is no kitchen. McDaniel said that would come in phase two of the build-out. In the meantime, meals will be brought in and served by volunteer groups, or delivered from the downtown Mary’s Place day center. There are restrooms in the building but only one shower – two more will be added in phase two. To start with, the Evergreen Aquatic Center has offered use of its showers.

Initially the plan is to host families with children totaling 30 people, eventually expanding to families totaling 70 people.

Volunteer opportunities include bringing in meals or supplies, tutoring children, welcoming guests at the front desk, assisting in the kids’ club, working with parents filling out housing or job applications, or hosting birthday parties. If you are interested in volunteering, email volunteer@marysplaceseattle.org. Most of the families will be referred from King County’s Coordinated Entry for All program, but families from the Highline school district will be prioritized, as will law-enforcement referrals.

Right now, the biggest need is for twin bed blankets and sheets, preferably new or very gently used. McDaniel said they shy away from furniture donations because of concerns such as bedbugs.

Also at NHUAC’s March meeting:

(WCN photo: NHUAC president Liz Giba and King County’s Matias Valenzuela)

Matias Valenzuela, director of King County’s Office of Equity and Social Justice, spoke to some of the concerns citizens are feeling about their civil rights. The department aims to use an equity and social justice lens when looking at community issues. That race, income, and neighborhood can dictate whether a person graduates from high school, becomes incarcerated, or is healthy – or not – is troubling, Valenzuela said.

Local action is being taken to protect immigrants, he said. County Ordinance 17886, enacted in 2014, says the county will only honor ICE detainer requests that are accompanied by a criminal warrant. Otherwise, the county will not turn someone over to ICE. Valenzuela said 70 elected officials in King County have signed an inclusive-community pledge.

He said the department is working on assisting people with the naturalization process. When asked if they have an ESL program, he said they didn’t but recommended churches or community colleges as a resource for those courses. Valenzuela said they are also working on setting up a hate-crime hotline.

The final speaker was King County’s White Center Storefront Sheriff’s Deputy Bill Kennamer.

Citing incident reports, not arrests, in the area, he said that assaults are up, but burglary is down. He noted an uptick in gang activity as a concern, mostly juveniles. Gang tagging was brought up by residents. Deputy Kennamer asked those in attendance to please report any gang tagging, because it could help them locate gang members. He said some are coming from California because the Puget Sound area doesn’t have as many law-enforcement gang units as California does. There was also concern expressed regarding prostitution in at least one local park.

Kennamer’s advice was to observe the broken window theory, which states that maintaining and monitoring an urban environment and keeping things looking well-kept, deters vandalism and crime. He advised the citizens to “take care of little quality-of-life issues, and it will keep other issues from coming up.”

The all-volunteer North Highline Unincorporated Area Council meets on the first Thursdays of most months, 7 pm at NH Fire District HQ. Between meetings, watch for updates at northhighlineuac.org.

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PHOTOS: TLC for future White Center shelter

February 11th, 2017 Tracy Posted in King County, White Center news 1 Comment »

Inside and out, the future family shelter at the old King County Public Health building in White Center is getting TLC right now from dozens of volunteers.

As you know if you’ve been participating in the process and/or following the coverage here on WCN, the shelter will be operated by Mary’s Place, which has reps there today too:

It’s hoped that the shelter will be ready to open next month, so the volunteer work that’s happening today is helping ensure that can happen:

Mary’s Place said at the recent meeting that it also appreciates ongoing volunteer help – you can sign up via its website, by going here.

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WHITE CENTER SHELTER: 2nd community meeting replaces shouts with applause; shelter expected to open in March; site’s future

January 25th, 2017 Tracy Posted in King County, White Center news 4 Comments »

(WCN photo: Marty Hartman from Mary’s Place at left, Adrienne Quinn from King County at right)

By Tracy Record
White Center Now editor

Mused one person after last night’s meeting about the revised White Center shelter proposal: If only King County had collaborated with the community first, rather than resorting to that only after getting shouted down while presenting a wildly unpopular proposal.

Last night’s meeting featured nary a shout – instead, applause, and words of gratitude, dominated.

Though it was officially the second community meeting about the plan for a shelter at a vacant county-owned building at 8th/108th, much transpired after the first one in September (WCN coverage here), when the plan was for a no-barrier, limited-hours shelter serving only adults. A community task force was quickly created, and oversaw the plan’s shift to one for a family shelter to be operated by the respected nonprofit Mary’s Place.

Last night, before just a few dozen people in a meeting room at Seola Gardens, Department of Community and Human Services director Adrienne Quinn opened with background on what had changed since the September meeting.

“We began a conversation about having a shelter for single adults at the White Center Public Health Clinic…candidly, the county learned a lot about the process, and it will change the way we will approach things in the future. … Many community members felt concerned about having a shelter for single adults,” raising a variety of issues. “On the flip side, people started talking about the number of homeless families in Highline Public Schools. … There certainly is a need.”

Along with proceeding with the plan to open the family shelter, they are working on another location for a shelter for single adults, Quinn noted. (We asked her post-meeting if there was any chance that would be proposed in this area; she said, emphatically, no.)

She also thanked the White Center Community Development Association, North Highline Unincorporated Area Council, and other community members who participated in the work group after that first meeting. “As a result of that process, we put together a community agreement” — you can read it online here. It will result in quarterly community meetings, Quinn said, to talk about, for example, how the shelter is working, and she invited people to join.

“We have a high degree of confidence in Mary’s Place,” Quinn said, and the organization will have a 24/7 line. “These children and families are part of the White Center community,” she added, saying there are at least 35 homeless families in the area. Key points right now:

*The permit is under review
*The building needs some upgrades, including fire code, added showers, and HVAC
*They’re hoping to open the shelter in “early spring” – hopefully March

Quinn gave the microphone at that point to Marty Hartman, executive director of Mary’s Place.

She started by showing a video that she had shown at a NHUAC meeting last fall, about family homelessness. “The need continues to grow,” Hartman said afterward – their “turnaway roster” had nine families today.

They have a model of using “underutilized” buildings, that are set for future redevelopment, “and we stay only as long as people want us to stay.” They have 400 beds in six buildings around King County right now, with the goal of bringing families, together, in from encampments, tents, cars. She invited people to come in, tutor the kids, “paint somebody’s nails because she has a job interview tomorrow.” More than a gap in resources, she said, there’s a gap in relationship issues. “We don’t do anything well by ourselves,” she said – they need community members to come in, and dozens of nonprofits with whom they partner.

In the past year, they’ve had 48 newborns in their shelter. “These parents are heroes – they walked in the door and asked for help.” They set goals with those who come to them, including housing, employment, health. They offer classes, legal counseling, and more, “helping people deal with the root causes of their homelessness.” She said they appreciate volunteers.

In 2010 they had 2300 “bed nights” of shelter; in 2016, 100,721 “bed nights,” with their motto to make sure “no child sleeps outside.” (Earlier today, they had announced $4.5 million in new support for their work.)

Hartman said that buildings full of families “scare (criminal activity) away … We know things don’t go perfect, and things will go wrong in our shelter,” and if “something’s bothering you, we don’t know until you tell us, so we can fix it.”

Also speaking, neighbor Owen, who had been part of the work group and identified himself as a counselor with Highline Public Schools. He said that having a shelter here will mean that kids will spend less time in transportation to school, more time doing their schoolwork. He said the work group had brought together a lot of people with different views on responding to homelessness, but they listened and were heard. He expressed hope that as the families are helped, they can deal with “the next ring” of people experiencing homelessness.

Also from the work group, Roslyn Hyde, who said she would be channeling (NHUAC president) Liz Giba (who was home sick and unable to attend but had been deeply involved with the task force). Hyde recently joined the NHUAC board. She talked about what it was like at the first meeting, feeling “cheated … duped … hopeless” and working to be sure the community would be heard. She started a petition. “You made this change happen,” she told the audience. “… You were all heard. … Change happened.” She thanked the county reps for listening. “We learned that the Highline school district has the fourth-highest rate of student homelessness in the state.” She said they were thrilled that Mary’s Place will “be our new neighbors” and spoke of how well-respected the organization is, as well as voicing hope that people will volunteer and donate. The shelter is likely to be there for three years, she said, and the community will need to be vigilant. “Let’s lead by example and welcome Mary’s Place.”

Joseph Benavides, who lives next to the shelter site, spoke about how defensive everyone had been at the first meeting – “but we worked through it.” Originally, he said, “we felt belittled” – but when the small group came together, that changed thing. “It’s going to be a work in progress … but no child belongs outside. I’m going to team up with them” and get involved with the families, he vowed. “I’m from White Center, and I care.” He contrasted it with the Seattle plan for more tents in a Myers Way encampment, and said that wasn’t right for anyone. But he ended with praise for this new plan.

Before community Q/A, Hartman introduced five members of her staff, from maintenance to volunteer coordinator. She said they’ve already hired others to work at the new shelter to get it up to speed.

First question: Hoped-for opening date. Hartman said March 1st is what they are working toward. As for how soon people can start helping, 9 am-1 pm (maybe later) February 11th will be a work party at the site – washing windows, scrubbing fixtures, trimming the shrubbery, planting flowers. (Look for the volunteer contact on the Mary’s Place website to RSVP. All ages welcome.)

Will the baby pantry stay at the building? Yes. Ian Smithgall from White Center Food Bank stood up to elaborate. “Anything we can do – obviously, food donations, we’ll appreciate.”

Is money more important than donated items? someone asked. Hartman said money is always important but they don’t have a budget for supplies so they appreciate it – diapers, formula, more. “We always have a wish list going … we like kids’ snacks, reusable bags … backpacks for kids, gently used stuff goes a long way.” Sheets and blankets too – twin sized, preferably, because that’s the size of beds they have. “And we need Pack ‘n’ Plays for the babies.”

How soon will they be able to store items? King County’s Mark Ellerbrook said they’re working on figuring out how to make that happen even before the building is ready.

Books are something else they can use, Hartman acknowledged.

Next comment was about improving ingress/egress to the site, to lessen traffic concerns, and Quinn said they’ll bring that to the attention of King County Roads. “I think it’s going to be an ongoing thing, to keep them engaged,” and community members will have to let them know what they’re seeing.

Trails around the building could be used for walks, it was suggested.

No other questions emerged. “Thank you for being brave,” Quinn told community members. Hartman ended with words of thanks, too, noting that Mary’s Place has not worked with King County before.

As for the future of the site – several years down the line – it’s been mentioned before that plans were brewing for a development involving housing as well as headquarters for nonprofit. Steve Daschle from Southwest Youth and Family Services got up to speak about that, and about his organization, which has expanded its work in South King County in recent years. Daschle promised to “engage the community” in what the site’s future “center of learning, sharing, and healthy food with homes for working families” vision is. “So many unknowns when it comes to that piece of property,” he said. “At this point we have dreams, and we hope you’ll share in (them)” as they continue to talk about it.

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REMINDER: White Center shelter meeting tonight

January 24th, 2017 Tracy Posted in King County, White Center news Comments Off on REMINDER: White Center shelter meeting tonight

It’s been a few weeks since we first mentioned it, so here’s a reminder – if you’re interested in the shelter planned at 8th/108th in White Center, tonight is the second community meeting. Much has changed since the contentious first meeting in September; the plan now, as reported here, is for a family shelter, to be operated by Mary’s Place. Tonight’s meeting is at 6:30 pm in Seola Gardens Community Center (11215 5th SW).

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Community meeting for revised White Center shelter proposal set for January 24th

January 5th, 2017 Tracy Posted in King County, White Center news Comments Off on Community meeting for revised White Center shelter proposal set for January 24th

Another update late today on the revised shelter proposal for the former King County Public Health building at 8th SW/SW 108th – the long-promised second community meeting is set:

King County Department of Community and Human Services invites the public to attend a community meeting about the proposed temporary family shelter at the former White Center Public Health building.

The meeting will be held at 6:30 on January 24 at the Seola Gardens Community Center (10821 8th Ave. SW.). Mary’s Place, the shelter operator, will be in attendance to discuss the shelter program. See the King County White Center Shelter webpage for updates, including the community agreement crafted by King County, the White Center Community Group, and Mary’s Place.

If you wish to submit comments for the community agreement, contact Valerie Kendall at valerie.kendall@kingcounty.gov or by phone at 206-263-9076.

A shelter update is also on the agenda for tonight’s North Highline Unincorporated Area Council meeting, 7 pm at NH Fire District HQ (1243 SW 112th).

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Congratulations to White Center boxing, soccer programs recognized by King County Council

December 13th, 2016 Tracy Posted in King County, White Center news 2 Comments »

The photo and report are from the office of County Council Chair Joe McDermott, who represents our area on the council:

On Monday, the King County Council recognized two exceptional at-risk youth programs based in White Center. The Councilmembers welcomed members of the Greater King County Police Activities League (GKCPAL) White Center Boxing Club and the White Center Teen Program Aztecs Soccer team to Monday’s council meeting, honoring them with an official County recognition highlighting their athletic successes and contribution to the community.

“Providing young people with safe and engaging alternatives is exceedingly important,” said Council Chair Joe McDermott. “These two programs in White Center offer opportunities to build self-esteem through athletics, as well as teaching other essential life skills.”

Founded in 2007, The White Center PAL Boxing Club is a part of a larger youth services program designed to appeal to at-risk youth in the White Center and surrounding area. It is run by a local chapter of the century-old Police Activities League, a national volunteer organization that aims to provide activities for at-risk youth and allow them personal interaction with police officers.

The Boxing Club is located in the White Center Community Center on the grounds of Steve Cox Memorial Park. Over the summer the club’s tournament team took second place in the National Junior Golden Gloves Tournament in Nevada.

“The White Center PAL Boxing Club is one of our longest running outreach programs,” said Executive Director of GKCPAL Jared Karstetter. “It has obtained national attention and success, but most importantly it has taken at-risk youth out of harm’s way and placed them on a path to success academically, physically, and mentally.”

The White Center Teen Program (WCTP) is managed by the King County Parks and Recreation Division and has been operating since 1991 at the White Center Community Center. The Aztec soccer team was created out of the WCTP in 2007. A second team (FC United) was added to the soccer club in 2010. The teams practice year round at Steve Cox Memorial Park.

“We are especially proud of the accomplishments made by both the Aztecs and PAL Boxing and honored to be able to provide a home for both programs at Steve Cox Memorial Park in White Center,” said King County Parks Director Kevin Brown.

As of 2016, there are thirty players practicing with the WCTP Soccer Club, bringing the running total of Aztec Soccer players to over two hundred. In addition to weekly soccer practices, the team attends ongoing tutoring sessions and leadership activities. The team also volunteers regularly in their community including the White Center Spring Clean, the National Night Out Against Crime, the White Center Youth Summit, and the Annual WC Halloween Carnival.

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