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 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

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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 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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WHITE CENTER SHELTER: Brief online update from King County

December 7th, 2016 Tracy Posted in King County, White Center news Comments Off on WHITE CENTER SHELTER: Brief online update from King County

We’ve already reported it here – and it was discussed at last week’s North Highline Unincorporated Area Council meeting – but in case you hadn’t heard, the county’s decision to open a family shelter at the 8th/108th building is now officially online, here.

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WHITE CENTER SHELTER: County takes task force’s suggestion, changes plan to ‘family shelter’

November 30th, 2016 Tracy Posted in King County, White Center news 9 Comments »

(WCN file photo of future shelter site)

By Tracy Record
White Center Now editor

Two and a half months after that tumultuous meeting about a proposed shelter at the former King County Public Health building at 8th SW/SW 108th, the proposal has changed.

At the urging of a small community task force that was formed in the wake of that meeting, the county is now planning a “family shelter” for the space instead of a shelter for single adults and couples. The original plan drew sharp criticisms including its proximity to school and park facilities and the proposal for it to be “no-barrier.”

We just talked with the county’s point person, Housing and Community Development manager Mark Ellerbrook, who will be at tomorrow night’s North Highline Unincorporated Area Council meeting to present a briefing about the new plan.

“The proposal to open it as an (adults-only) shelter is no longer on the table,” Ellerbrook confirmed. They’re also no longer planning to work with the Salvation Army, but instead, they expect the operator will be Mary’s Place, which already runs shelter space for families elsewhere in the region. (Its executive director will join Ellerbrook at the NHUAC meeting.)

Mary’s Place had toured the space “a couple times,” and gave a presentation at last night’s meeting of the task force.

This means a modification in the permit application for changing the building’s use, Ellerbrook said, and that means they’re not likely to be able to open the facility any sooner than January.

The shelter also likely will operate with fewer people than first planned; while they were discussing a capacity of 70 under the original plan, they’re now thinking more like 25 to 30 people, according to Ellerbrook. “Obviously we need more shelter for all populations across the county,” he said. “Countywide, 600 families are in need of shelter.” The prospective client base for the new White Center plan, he said, would be the families of Highline Public Schools student currently experiencing homelessness; as of the most recent county, that includes 36 families with 76 students.

What would the definition of family be in this context? we asked.

As discussed by Mary’s Place, Ellerbrook said, it could be a parent and child – that could include adult children – maybe a single parent, maybe a couple, maybe a multigenerational family. “We need to work through the details.” Mary’s Place has some families in its North Seattle shelter with up to eight members, he said.

While they were touring the site, he added, a family came by “and asked if the shelter was open yet.”

The first step toward this is the permit modification, as they are “trying to figure out” what will be needed, such as, potentially, hygiene facilities. They might open and continue making modifications while they’re already in operation, “so we could get it operating and see what tweaks need to be made.”

What would happen, we asked, to the other people in White Center that the county had planned to serve?

Ellerbrook said the new county budget has $6 million in funding for “two shelters in and around downtown for single adults, 24/7 shelters we were discussing, as the family shelter will now operate … as we do outreach to (people experiencing homelessness) in White Center,” they would hope to be able to point those people toward the future downtown shelters.

How much will the family-shelter plan cost? we asked. Ellerbrook says they don’t yet know what the county’s share of the cost would be and how much Mary’s Place might be able to operate.

Overall, he lauded “a good process (working with) the community at large to really identify the need and the issues in the community” resulting in this change of plans.

But bring your questions to tomorrow’s North Highline Unincorporated Area Council meeting, 7 pm at North Highline Fire District HQ (1243 SW 112th). After that, Ellerbrook says, there will be a second community meeting about the new shelter proposal, but the date’s not yet set – “probably early January.”

BACKSTORY: NHUAC’s September meeting brought first public word of the planned shelter, though the county later acknowledged the plan had been in the works for months. The community task force that generated the family-shelter plan was created following the raucous-at-times September 15th community meeting.

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WHITE CENTER SHELTER: Updates including why the county is ruling out alternative sites

November 9th, 2016 Tracy Posted in King County, White Center news Comments Off on WHITE CENTER SHELTER: Updates including why the county is ruling out alternative sites

Six days after our extensive update on the proposed White Center shelter, resulting from county official Adrienne Quinn‘s appearance at the November NHUAC meeting, there’s another update. This one comes via e-mail from the county:

King County continues to explore opening a homeless shelter at the former Public Health Clinic in White Center. Recent work has focused on evaluating alternative sites suggested by the local community. King County is also evaluating the community suggestion of using the site for a family shelter.

The first meeting of the work group was October 18. The work group will meet again the week of November 10 to discuss alternate site locations and the shelter model. King County representatives also recently attended the November 3 meeting of the North Highline Unincorporated Area Council.

The King County Department of Permitting and Environmental Review is continuing to review the permit request.

The update points to the county website about the proposal – and that’s where you’ll find the new information, in response to questions raised, including at the NHUAC meeting:

*What about alternate sites? This document shows four sites that have been proposed and ruled out (and explains why).

*How many homeless people are in White Center? This document shows the 176 tallied during the One Night Count, with lower numbers from other sources.

*Definition of terms related to the shelter (enhanced, etc.).

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‘November 1st is off’: Latest on the proposed White Center shelter

October 19th, 2016 Tracy Posted in King County, White Center news Comments Off on ‘November 1st is off’: Latest on the proposed White Center shelter

Continuing to follow up on King County’s proposal for an emergency shelter in White Center:

Last time we spoke with Sherry Hamilton from the Department of Housing and Community Services, she wasn’t able to say for sure whether the original November 1st goal of opening a shelter was still a possibility.

But today, she told WCN, the November 1st date is definitely OFF – there is no way they will have a space vetted and ready to open by then.

No new goal date at this point, though Hamilton stresses that there remains a sense of urgency as the fall/winter weather intensifies.

The Department of Permitting and Environmental Review is still looking at the county’s application for a “change of use” at the former Public Health building at 8th/108th, which many community members decry as unsuitable because, among other reasons, it’s close to schools and a park.

But Hamilton stresses that they are interested in other possibilities. She confirmed that a community working group met last night for the first time – we are told that the White Center Community Development Association is involved, among others – and that the county was heartened to hear “a desire to help” people experiencing homelessness. The group, she said, was working on a list of “concerns” as well as discussing other possible spaces.

Still no date for a second community meeting, she added, as she had told us last week.

Meantime, she said that the department plans to update its webpage about the shelter proposal – possibly as soon as the end of today.

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

October 12th, 2016 Tracy Posted in King County, White Center news 10 Comments »

(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:

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WHITE CENTER SHELTER? Permit application under review

October 10th, 2016 Tracy Posted in King County, White Center news 5 Comments »

Three and a half weeks after the tumultuous public meeting regarding the proposed “emergency shelter” at 10821 8th SW, the county has yet to announce a date for its promised second community meeting. Our inquiries following the discussion at last Thursday’s North Highline Unincorporated Area Council meeting have not yet been answered – we have inquiries out both to the department responsible for the project, and also to King County Council Chair Joe McDermott, who represents this area.

But online records confirm that the county has applied for a permit “to make life safety improvements to operate a temporary emergency overnight shelter” at the ex-Public Health building. The county website shows the intake date as September 28th, less than two weeks after the hearing.

Side note: While reviewing King County Executive Dow Constantine‘s proposed county budget, we also noted that in the full 753-page budget document, page 84 mentions a budget transfer to support “custodial services” in 2017 and 2018 “in White Center for 50 beds per night” and also for the same number of beds in the Administration Building downtown.

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Shelter concerns, Highline school bond, 50% stormwater-fee increase @ North Highline Unincorporated Area Council

October 6th, 2016 Tracy Posted in King County, North Highline UAC, White Center news 5 Comments »

By Tracy Record
White Center Now editor

Topline from tonight’s meeting of the North Highline Unincorporated Area Council, which drew about 40 people, more than double the usual turnout, and ran for three hours:

WHITE CENTER SHELTER? Three weeks after the tumultuous meeting (WCN coverage here) about the shelter proposed for the former King County Public Health Center at 8th SW and SW 108th, the topic was in the spotlight again at tonight’s NHUAC meeting.

Burien/Normandy Park FD fire marshal Ray Pettigrew was asked to speak about concerns raised by the county’s proposal to change “what is basically an office building and turn it into a residential structure.” Concerns, he said, would be the plan for “occupancy classification” – it would need fire alarms with automatic detection, for example. “You would have to put a different kind of sprinkler head in there that takes care of the fire quicker, so occupants have a chance to get out,” for example, Pettigrew said. Whatever you think of the proposal, the department must look at the safety of the 70 people the building would house, some of whom might have “some degree of impairment,” and firefighters’ safety would have to be taken into account too.

Exit paths should be no more than 75 feet, but he said plans for the building didn’t seem to have addressed that yet. There would likely be a need for fire suppression in the building’s kitchen, too. Carbon-monoxide detectors are needed as well as smoke detectors. He also mentioned “panic hardware” and the potential draw on resources, “a facility that might add one or two calls a day … you’re looking at impacts to the area, and how are they going to be mitigated?” In response to a question, he said there has been communication with the county Fire Marshal’s Office. “But,” pressed an attendee, “can they occupy it without all (of this mitigation)?” Yes, King County could do that, because they “own the permitting process.” Pettigrew made it clear that he doesn’t have the jurisdiction; Chris Ricketts, King County fire marshal, does.

Then a nearly surprise guest – King County Sheriff John Urquhart. He said he only found out about it a couple weeks ago, and while he probably has no say over the decision, “it’s probably going to add to our call load,” and if they have to add resources, they will. “Sounds to me like this train is coming down the track, but if anybody is going to stop it, it’s going to be this group here.”

What can citizens do if things go really bad? asked an attendee, bringing up the now-notorious Interbay sports-field camping. “You know why that’s happening? Because it’s the city of Seattle,” he said, bringing up pending legislation in the city that would reportedly allow camping on a lot of public property.

“But we don’t operate out here like that. If someone is camping on private property, we will get them out of there. If it’s public property – and they are trespassing – we will get them out.” He said, “I have compassion for the homeless, but they can’t be parking in front of somebody else’s house, for more than 24 hours.” If they want to park longer than that, “send them north of Roxbury,” he said, to laughter.

Attendees brought up safety concerns for kids walking to schools. But Urquhart pointed out that King County has had “tent cities for a long time, and crime didn’t go up” – because, he said, the encampments were self-governing and had rules. “We have devolved so far from there … it is a terrible situation,” Urquhart said.

He had called it a “political decision,” and NHUAC board member Elizabeth Gordon said, “You mean the executive’s office?” “And his people,” Urquhart replied. “…but that’s not a value judgment, that’s just the way it is. Dow and (Seattle Mayor) Ed Murray have said there’s a homeless emergency in this region, and they’re right, there is an emergency. … They have an empty building, and they want to put 70 people into it.”

If it goes through, and you see problems, one attendee said, “call 911 – call police – every time.” Urquhart said he agreed with that solution. “Super-important to call 911,” not just so they have a record of it, but so they can do something about it.

That segued into a reminder that while White Center might have the minimum-level two deputies on duty at any time, if need be, they can get backup from other areas of the King County Sheriff’s Office-served areas nearby.

Also – White Center resident Joseph Benavides (sp?) talked toward the start of the meeting about continuing community opposition to the shelter proposal, mentioning an online petition and crowdfunding for a lawyer.

NHUAC president Liz Giba said she had asked King County leadership to come to White Center for a meeting on the proposal, but had not received a reply.

Later in the meeting, she said they’re hoping to get guests to talk about it at next month’s NHUAC meeting, including elected officials such as King County Councilmember Joe McDermott.

CRIME UPDATE: Storefront deputy Bill Kennamer talked about this afternoon’s robbery – “four dudes with four guns,” but the store operator, Lawless Clothing, won’t cooperate. “We’re doing our best to shut them down,” he said, alleging that the business has an unlawful sideline. He mentioned that while the helicopter was in the area, it picked up a LoJack (stolen vehicle) signal, and while KCSO does not have LoJack in its cars, Seattle Police came over and helped them find the vehicle near the Evergreen campus.

Kennamer said the sheriff has made it clear, no fixed encampments in the unincorporated urban areas – White Center and Skyway – and, he said, they don’t have any. Overall, Kennamer said he would be surprised if this area has more than two dozen “regulars” experiencing homelessness, contrary to the county’s contention that there are at least 100.

He also confirmed that the KCSO storefront has moved to the new location announced earlier this year, the former White Center Chamber of Commerce building at Steve Cox Memorial Park.

For crime stats/trends, he showed the newest month-by-month charts on “case reports taken,” with some modest increases.

Have campers on Myers Way had an effect on crime rates? Kennamer was asked. He said he’s not seeing that.

The deputy also had positive words for the WC Chevron site’s redevelopment for Starbucks and Popeye’s; he said the car wash at 16th and 104th now is part of the trespass program so that should take care of loitering; Drunky’s Two Shoe BBQ should be open by mid-November; across the street, the former Hang Around (among other things) is going to be a beer place. The new Uncle Ike’s marijuana store between 14th and 15th “has had an immediate positive effect on the area … (the proprietor) wants to get soccer moms comfortable enough to come and buy weed (there).”

HIGHLINE PUBLIC SCHOOLS BOND: With one month to go until the $233 million bond‘s fate is decided in the November election, former Burien Councilmember Rose Clark – co-chair of a 40-member citizen committee that worked on the proposal – spoke tonight to NHUAC. She said the committee “spent a huge amount of time” working on assessing district challenges, problems, and requirements. “Remember, a bond is only for buildings,” she pointed out – not textbooks, staff, etc.

She talked about the committee’s tour of HPS schools and finding one building “so old, so fragile, I swear if you take the ivy off the back of it, that building is going to fall down.” She admitted she voted against the last bond for reasons including her belief that Highline HS couldn’t be in worse shape than, for example, Evergreen … but seeing it, she said, swayed her. (The bond measure does include money to start designing new campuses for Tyee and Evergreen, she said; spending $10 million on design in this bond cycle will save $23 million in the next one.) Des Moines Elementary also seems in danger of crumbling “on the heads of the kids” at any moment, Clark said. The statewide class-size mandate for K-3 means more room is needed, in addition to existing needs, she said. Newer schools will get security retrofits – from door-locking to security cameras – and the district would get an emergency-operations center, Clark noted.

For a levy overview – see this page, which has a breakout of which schools would get what if the bond passes. And the district has three open house/tour events planned next week, including one at the Evergreen campus – see the dates/times/locations here. Based on current assessed valuation, this bond measure would cost you 79 cents for every thousand dollars of assessed value of your property.

At meeting’s end, NHUAC board members voted 6-1 to endorse a “yes” vote on the bond measure.

STORMWATER SERVICES PROGRAM: King County’s Trisha Davis spoke about the program and a proposed 50 percent fee increase. “Most of the development in the county was built without any stormwater controls,” she explained, unlike new development – such as the new White Center Library, which she said was built “with extensive stormwater controls.” Stormwater takes pollution off roads and sends it into waterways, where it can kill healthy salmon “within hours.” The stormwater-management fee pays for the program, $171.50 per single-family parcel; “commercial properties pay based on the amount of impervious surface they have.” The current fee brings in $24 million/year. But the county wants to address “more challenges” than it can do with that revenue, Davis said, including roadway drainage and retrofitting “areas without stormwater controls.” Roadway infrastructure that’s in danger of failing in the next decade alone would cost up to half a billion dollars to fix. Looking over the next century, the price tag could go up to $830 million. To start bringing in more money, she said, King County Executive Dow Constantine is proposing a 50 percent increase in the fee, to $258 per residential parcel. The fee increase would affect about 80,000 property owners in the unincorporated area, according to Davis.

Would there be projects in the White Center area? Davis was asked. While she didn’t have a specific list, she said yes. In response to a question, she said that most property owners don’t know that they are aware for managing their own stormwater.

In Q&A, a variety of drainage/stormwater-related concerns arose, involving sites including the White Center Neighborhood Pond. While there are trash concerns, and some loitering problems, a King County Sheriff’s Office rep acknowledged, “it’s nothing like what it was” before camps in the area were removed.

MISCELLANEOUS ANNOUNCEMENTS: A library celebration is coming up on October 29th …White Center Kiwanis is selling candy bars, Godiva for $3, See’s for $2.50, to support local youth. An increase of community support has made them able to offer more support for local scholarships as well as uniforms for Mount View Elementary School. No specific locations/times for sales – “wherever we are.”

The North Highline Unincorporated Area Council meets most months on the first Thursday, 7 pm. Watch for updates and agendas. As the board points out, they need people to get involved and stay involved.

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White Center shelter: What the county’s saying, post-meeting

September 19th, 2016 Tracy Posted in King County, White Center news 5 Comments »

As noted here over the weekend, King County has posted an FAQ on their webpage about the proposed White Center shelter at the former Public Health clinic on 8th SW at SW 108th. They’ve also added their minutes of last Thursday night’s meeting – read the 9-plus pages of notes here. (Our comprehensive coverage, including video of the entire meeting, is here.)

We had asked some followup questions, and the answers largely came back as the same verbiage in the FAQ.

We asked: How soon will a date be set for the second meeting?

Reply, almost exactly the same as the “what are the next steps?” FAQ reply: “King County will work on suggestions and input given by community members including the possibility of alternate locations and/or reshaping the shelter program. Once this work has been completed, King County will discuss these options with community members.”

We asked: Will the project be put on hold in the meantime as requested, or is it going forward with permit application and whatever work is under way?

The second part was not answered (so we’ll be asking again) – the permit filing is a particularly relevant point, as, before the meeting, the county had told us that they expected to submit the filing right after the meeting. To “will the project be put on hold?” the reply was: We are taking a step back to consider the input we received from the community.

Noting that multiple attendees at Thursday’s meeting had said this had been under discussion for “a year,” without that being refuted by anyone from the county or Salvation Army, we asked if that timeline were true. The reply was almost word-for-word what’s in the FAQ as the reply to “How long has King County been planning to site a shelter in White Center?” – Executive Constantine and Seattle Mayor Ed Murray announced a homeless state of emergency last November. Following that declaration, King County began an exploration of county buildings and properties to see if any might be feasible for use as housing or shelter. At the same time, we also looked at our data to determine geographic areas of need. Upon our initial review, the nearly vacant White Center Public Health building entered consideration. The first planning connected to the White Center site began in May with a physical assessment of the site followed by working with partners to develop the service program. Upon completion of this phase, King County sent out the public meeting notice in late August with the meeting being held on Sept. 15.

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VIDEO: ‘We won’t let it happen!’ shout furious opponents of King County’s White Center shelter plan

September 15th, 2016 Tracy Posted in housing, King County, White Center news 31 Comments »

(Added early Friday: Unedited WCN video of meeting, in its entirety)

By Tracy Record
White Center Now editor

King County promises a second community meeting about its uncloaked-at-the-last-minute plan to open a 70-bed shelter in White Center.


That followed a tense and intense standing-room-only meeting with more than 100 people, many furious and frightened, saying the shelter proposed for the former Public Health building at 8th and 108th is too close to schools, too close to homes, simply the wrong location.

Some declared they will do whatever it takes to stop it, and were talking about protests and crowdfunding for legal action.

Here’s how the 2 1/2-hour meeting – an hour longer than originally planned – unfolded in TAF’s Bethaday Community Learning Space, close to the location where the county says it wants to open the shelter by November 1st.

The meeting was moderated by Michael Ramos of the Church Council of Greater Seattle, who opened it reiterating that the most-recent One Night Count found 10,000 people unsheltered in King County. It is a “there but for the grace of God go I” situation, he stressed. He said he is part of the All Home coalition that works on the homelessness crisis. “With supportive services, this can be a place of hope and healing for the community.” He promised comments and questions/answers will be “audio-recorded” with an FAQ posted on King County’s website.

The county “is determined to hear” what those in attendance have to say, Ramos promised while trying to set ground rules for the discussion. One man said that he felt it was somewhat disrespectful for the meeting organizers to even have to suggest such rules might be needed.

Next to speak, Mark Ellerbrook, the King County official, to whom we spoke for the preview story we published on Tuesday. “The need in this community is very real,” he declared. Ellerbrook reiterated that Southwest King County has the largest number of people living outdoors outside Seattle – at least 100 estimated to be in White Center, sleeping in doorways, parks, other places. Calls to 211 numbered more than 1,300 for the three zip codes that cover the greater White Center area. “There is no shelter” in this area, he again declared, aside from small shelters for women in West Seattle and Burien. The county looks at where it needs services, and this area qualifies, he said. So, they started looking at where they could provide services, “and move (people) into housing.”

As he had told WCN in our interview, the shelter will operate 5 pm to 8 am. Ellerbrook handed the microphone to Maj. Smith and Scott Morehouse from the Salvation Army.

Smith said he has “been doing this a long time” – involved with shelter, addictions, and is Director of Social Services in the Seattle area. “Our flagship programs have become our shelter operations.” Up to 230 beds at three locations comprise the programs right now, he said, and Morehouse is the manager; he said he’s a “member of the White Center community.”

After their short intros, the microphone was handed to Steve Daschle of Southwest Youth and Family Services, a West Seattle-headquartered nonprofit. As he had told the North Highline Unincorporated Area Council months ago, his organization and others are looking at a potential development at the site of this emergency shelter and the neighboring White Center Food Bank. “We have a vision .. of a community service center that could serve White Center and Southwest King County,” working with the WCFB and White Center Community Development Association. In addition to that, they are talking with Capitol Hill Housing to provide “several units of housing” on that site, but he said it’s still early – at least two, three, four years before the building could be built, “a brand new, beautiful resource for the community.”

First person to ask a question was Bobby Beeman of Sky’s Barber Shop and the White Center Chamber of Commerce, asking why White Center businesses hadn’t been notified until just a few days ago.

He said that WC residents seem to believe that businesspeople are “pushing homeless people” from the business district, into residential areas. “I happen to know that the 300 or 400 people you talk about in White Center, if you go out and had conversation with the people you seem to want to help and ask them what they needed, you’ll find that they prefer to be on the fringe, that they don’t want (what) you are going to offer them.” He also brought up what King County’s Ellerbrook had said, that they operate regionally so people don’t have to be from White Center to use a WC shelter, and so on.

Ellerbrook said yes, that’s true, and said that outreach workers try to build relationships with people to bring them in and help with their issues and while it might not click the first time, it eventually does.

Beeman pressed him on the point of the county suggesting that the business community supported this. Ellerbrook said that they had heard “in various meetings” and then said, “I apologize for” not reaching out directly to businesspeople, and he reiterated that they had distributed notices within 500 feet of the planned shelter.

Next person to speak says the intersection “with four schools” is one of the busiest, most dangerous in the area, and he’s concerned that those schools all will be starting around the time that the shelter sends people out for the day. He said that “We’re not going to stand for this to come into this place, if we have to place a human barrier in front of it.” He vowed to inundate the county with e-mails “because we’re not going to have this.” He also said planning for the facility allegedly began a year ago and there wouldn’t even be a meeting tonight if WCCDA’s Sili Savusa hadn’t told the county they had better talk to the community.”

Next, two people who said that transients go by their house and throw trash into their yard, and that a fire was started.

“Send them to Bellevue, send them to Kirkland!” he and his wife shouted, with supportive shouts coming from the audience.

Next, a woman from the Coalition on Homelessness said the problem is that there are people who have nowhere to go. This facility will offer evening and morning meals, which will allow people more time “to work on their jobs.” Many people sleeping outside do work, she said. “I want to call attention to the fact that the people living outside are human beings like the rest of us, we are all people. They are (also) residents of this community.”

“No, no, no,” yell some in the audience.

The advocate said it’s important that people realize drug and alcohol problems are not limited to unsheltered people. “We are talking about people who might have lived in your community before and lost their homes because they lost their jobs.”

“Do you live in White Center?” someone hollered from the audience.

Next person to speak identified herself as an Arrowhead Gardens resident. She said, “We have two encampments next door and we are comfortable with those encampments … When you talk about drugs, you will note that the people who are living there have a sign that says ‘no drugs allowed'” – she appears to be speaking about Camp Second Chance – and she goes on to say it’s important “that you don’t lump all people who are homeless as (if they are) a monstrosity.” She closes by reading a few lines of poetry.

Next speaker is a woman who identifies herself as a mom, and says this is “kind of unexpected.” She voices concern about children walking to school. She wonders why this location and not one that is more out of the way. Ellerbrook answers the question and says that the layout of the building works well for the various types of people they hope to serve, and reiterates that it’s a “temporary use of a county facility that’s vacant at the moment.”

Then a woman who says she is a White Center “building owner” and married to a business owner says she “cleans my parking lot almost every day,” scrubbing away excrement, picking up needles, bottles, cleaning out graffiti. She says she’s concerned that there’s no limit on nights that people can stay. “What incentive are we giving them … it sounds like enabling … I don’t mean to lump this population with going to get loaded, shoot up, stumble into the shelter … this should be a give-and-take and it sounds like take, take, take.” She thinks people using the shelter should have to show proof they are looking for work and trying to better their circumstances. “What are they going to change?”

Ellerbrook: “If we provide a shelter with barriers – they don’t come indoors. If it’s a low-barrier shelter, we get people to come in, and get them to address” their circumstances and challenges “and move into housing.”

Morehouse from the Salvation Army said that adding part-time case management increased “housing outcomes” at their downtown shelter by seven percent. “You said seven percent?” someone shouted, and someone else laughed.

Maj. Smith said that sheltering originally was about just keeping people from freezing to death on the street. “When you start to provide extended services … they will respond … they do respond. Not everybody responds, but those who do, we’ve seen them increase their ability to stabilize and access other services, and it’s a deterrent to the other things that the community faces … without that. … Intervention of this type leads to a decrease” in the problems. Smith mentions that the Salvation Army already has a nearby location (in South Delridge) where they can “engage” with the people who will be in this shelter.

What does “moving into housing” mean? someone asked. It might be “supportive housing,” Ellerbrook said. It might be “rapid rehousing.” But “we know that those folks who enter into housing stay in it for the long term.”

“Who pays for it?” someone asked loudly.

“So that doesn’t mean those people got on their feet,” said the person who asked the question.

A community member said she had been homeless and supports good programs, but she is concerned that this isn’t the best model, that people will just go out in the daytime and hang around in parks. “I don’t think we have the resources to provide public safety … I also have concerns about a faith-based model being used to support homeless people,” and she suggested other types of programs might help better with recovery.

Maj. Smith said that “being a faith-based organization is a lot different than providing faith-based services” – the programs are not faith-based, he said.

The next person mentioned Camp Second Chance (which is just inside the gate to the City of Seattle-owned Myers Way Parcels). “I asked them what they thought their solution would be … and it was that they can’t afford housing in Seattle. I said, ‘at least you’re not doing drugs here,’ and I got this deer in the headlights look, so I’m not so sure.” She went on to say that she has known methadone-using addicts and has had drug-using squatters on her property, and that the situation on Myers Way “has exploded this summer.” She said that opioid problems seem to be the root of the problem, and said that programs such as methadone and implants are keeping people addicted. She thought some different types of programs should be used.

Next speaker declared, “Communication is terrible, especially from King County, so since the county is going to do what it wants to do, regardless of the protest … what is it exactly that is going to happen to us in six weeks, so we know what to go to Joe McDermott and complain about?”

“We are going through the permitting process for ‘change of use’,” Ellerbrook said. “There are also improvements being made to the building – the fire panel, the facility generally, so it can be managed as a shelter. … This is the first that DCHS has heard (about the intersection concerns),” so they will go to the Roads Department about that. The concerns voiced tonight, he reiterated, will be posted on the county website.

Next, a woman who said she had been in human services for 10 years, “I am not unfamiliar, I have been in One Night Count, I have been out on the streets counting … I, as are (many others) here, am a homeowner, in Seola Gardens. We are a mixed-income community. Before the houses were built, we encountered some of the homeless (people) who would come take advantage of a safe haven that is there … we found many individuals who were opioid users, asleep on the vacant lots.” She said she was concerned about the central intake area, and who will be handling the data so that there are no longer people unable to access services. “How else is the county going to help with MIDD” – mental, instable, drug dependency.

Ellerbrook said that’s a levy that’s up for renewal right now, being considered by the County Council right now “that will be able to directly assist in this area.” Who are the other nonprofits that will be working with the shelter users? the woman asked again. Ellerbrook mentioned Sound Mental Health, as he had in our conversation earlier this week. Also: “One of the key interventions we will be using is ‘rapid rehousing’, to get people into housing quickly, for less cost than historically. … If we can get people into housing, they are successful in (staying housed).”

Besides Salvation Army and Sound Mental Health, he said “coordinated entry” would be done, including an initial assessment. “So if somebody presents at the shelter, they would get an assessment at the shelter … and they would be able to get a referral for housing, and that is managed by the county.”

The next speaker said, “I am excited for this … I think this is a good opportunity … I think (I am hearing) a lot of concern from the audience that we are not informed, that happens a lot in White Center… but … the numbers that we heard in the beginning, that there are 300 people in Southwest King County, unsheltered … the need is already here … we need to provide people a way to make better choices … I know that when I am rested and fed a little bit, I am able to think about things like my job …” He asked people to see people who might have the chance to make a transition.

After him, a man who said, “This is an enhanced shelter, which means no screening of occupants, people could show up drunk, stoned, they’ll be admitted – what about the people in there who are trying to get ahead?” And:”This is not about family homeless situations, this is about people who may not want to get help … it’s not for people under 18; existing felons or drug users can take advantage of this … it’s a regional (problem). These people can come from anywhere. … This is a main thoroughfare, it’s already been pointed out this is a dangerous intersection, I don’t want people squatting under my trees, parking their van in front of my house … this hurts the neighborhood, makes it more prone to crime, drugs, it’s not well thought out, you guys are shoving it down our throats. … This is not the right solution.”

Someone shouted from the back, “why not families?”

Ellerbrook replied that couples will be allowed in this shelter, unlike many. He didn’t answer why children would not be allowed.

Next: “We’re not necessarily opposed … we’re pissed off beyond belief that we’re just now getting to talk about it … we’re being told it’s opening November 1st without getting a chance to have a say. We’re not saying that homeless people are the worst of the worst, but 60 percent of them have alcohol, drug problems .. We want to get them help but we’re not being given the chance. Did you talk to the parents of (nearby schools)?”

No! shout many in the audience.

She says she has a daughter at Mount View Elementary and is worried that once the shelter users are sent out for the day, they’ll hang out in the area. The shelter operators will not know if any of them are sex offenders or have criminal backgrounds. “You have no respect for this community,” she shouts.

There’s no response to the statement, and many shout, “NO RESPONSE? ANSWER THE QUESTION!”

Ellerbrook says they reached out to the schools. Then a woman runs up to the front of the room and says she hasn’t been able to sleep for nights since hearing about the shelter plan, and that she talked to Highline Public Schools‘ security chief and that he told her he knew nothing about it.

The woman continues to shout that the children would be walking the same path as the people using the shelter.

One man in the back of the room shouted, “THERE WILL BE NO SHELTER!”

Another woman shouting from the side of the room demanded to know more about when there was alleged outreach to the schools.

Ellerbrook said he talked to a principal last week.

“LAST WEEK?” people shouted.

“You need to talk to the parents!” some shout.

“We will not let it happen! It will not let it happen!” people shouted.

Someone else shouted “GoFundMe page for an attorney!”

Answering a question from a few minutes earlier, Ellerbrook said that funding was planned for the shelter through 2017, and then part of it would be from state funds and “some of the other local dollars we use to provide shelter through the county.”

Next person to speak told those at the meeting that they “have done a pretty poor job” of getting information to the community. “That being said, these people who need the support and the services who are going to be offered at this place are already part of our community, they are already here, and I think there’s a great amount of evidence that these services are successful.” He wanted the Salvation Army to explain what kind of success they’ve said.

Morehouse said, “The people you come into contact with who access shelter and walk away as a success story, I wish we could tell you the numbers are huge … but we know that’s not really possible. What we are committed to is intervention, what we are committed to is trying to find resources for people, trying to help (them) on this almost impossible journey … If we don’t, who will?”

Next attendee said he has had to put up a fence on his property to keep transients away. He had trouble reaching someone in King County to listen to him. “I think you guys are confusing what the problem is.”

“The problem is that we have too many people here already,” someone said.

A woman said, “When you have children in this area, it’s location, location, location … when we call the cops every single night because there are people out back, couples out back, having sex, swearing, leaving needles, condoms, we can’t even have our grandchildren play at our home, when we can no longer use a park because all these people are going to be released out into the community … God bless the homeless, I wish I could give a home to everyone of them, but it’s this location, why could you not have chosen somewhere else? The complaint is location, we might as well be the third frickin’ runway here, we were not given any warning. … you can’t have a discussion for a year and then suddenly” bring it forward.

Pat Price from the North Highline Unincorporated Area Council said they received no official notification – it was brought up at their last meeting only because a NHUAC member lived close enough to get the notice about this. (And we should note, the only reason we heard about this is because we routinely cover NHUAC meetings, and are the only media organization that does that – we then had to work through the county to get the notice.) She asked if King County uses “its own Equity Impact Tool” or if it commissioned a housing analysis or opportunity mapping while planning this project. And Price wondered about the meeting notice’s mention that the community could suggest alternate sites.

“This is the worst site!” shouted someone in the back of the room.

Ellerbrook said they heard a suggestion for the DSHS building in downtown White Center, so they investigated it, but: “That’s been fully leased out to Sea Mar,” he said. A man in the back of the room said the county wasn’t aware of that previously.

The next person to speak said she felt “there should be a shelter somewhere in White Center – but, in a residential area, where there are homes north, east, south, west – children walk to school, my child, and it’s not as safe as it was when I used to walk to school – I’m glad this community is here today. These questions haven’t been answered to our community. Our community is suffering from this and we need to talk again. Homelessness in White Center is real … November is only two months away .. this community doesn’t really need a shelter in the residential area.”

Another woman says she found out about the meeting from a neighbor who works with the school district. “You should have had meetings when you started planning a year ago.” She said she had suggested previously that unused school buildings be used. If school district people had been notified back at the start of the planning process, they could have offered those suggestions.

Ellerbrook said they would take that suggestion under advisement as well as possibly changing the discharge hours at the shelter. Then people started shouting, that’s not the problem, it’s the location. Ellerbrook said, “Are there ways that we can mitigate the concerns?”

“No!” shouted many in the crowd.

Ellerbrook reiterated that people who will be served by the shelter are “in the community” now. “We will be doing outreach to those specific locations, to people who are already in your community, who are causing some of the issues (that people at the meeting have brought up).”

The next speaker identified herself as 26 years old and said homelessness has been an issue since before she was born, so, “What is the rush? … If these resources haven’t been available before this, then why are we rushing something that clearly the community is not on board with? This is definitely an issue that needs to be addressed in this neighborhood – I have a heart for members of this community (including those who are homeless) and this could be an amazing thing if it had been addressed correctly.”

Ellerbrook addressed that question by saying that they wanted to open it before the worst weather hit, “when we open emergency shelters throughout the county.”

Barbara Dobkin of NHUAC pointed out that this was not brought up at the most recent Community Service Area meeting. “We are presently a community of poverty … We have progressively been getting poorer and this is by design. This isn’t by accident, this is by design. … Why is it that White Center is a catch-all for things that nobody else wants?”

Ellerbrook says again that this will serve people who are already in the community, and that many of them are likely to be members of underserved, underrepresented groups.

A man saying he just moved into Seola Gardens says he is worried about policing, and that “Seattle is making their problems our problems.” He wonders what kind of protection people can expect.

“Self-policing!” says a man in the back. “Arm yourselves!”

“People don’t want to be homeless,” Ellerbrook said in his next reply.

“Baloney!” someone hollered.

Ellerbrook said that if people know they have a spot in the shelter the next night, they won’t be queueing up outside it. “What do you do when it’s full?” an attendee shouted.

Next person said he was frustrated to hear of the 7 percent success rate. He said he got a flyer and ran around his neighborhood telling his neighbors about it, and that they hadn’t heard. He lives near Mount View Elementary and said that he called police a few years back about a prostitution problem. He said that the shelter will bring the neighborhood down. That led to someone else complaining about car prowling problems. “You can’t take care of the people who are here now.”

The next speaker said she had lived in her car for six months, with a baby, “it was not a pleasant experience,” and she had help getting out of it, but had to live up to certain “parameters.” And she was concerned about not knowing who will be in the area. “Think of the children,” she said, “really.”

“I’ve heard a lot about this being temporary – is it temporary until it becomes permanent?” asked the next questioner. She also worried about people coming to the shelter after being “swept” from crime-ridden encampments like Seattle’s “Jungle.”

Ellerbrook reiterated that the time frame would be likely up to three years. And he again said, this is for people who are in the community now. That drew more shouting about the “regional” explanation that had been offered earlier. Regarding the seven percent “success rate,” he said they know that is low, and that’s why they are moving to the “enhanced shelter” plan, which they feel will have a much higher success rate.

Asked if this has been announced, he said, “We have not mentioned this to any homeless people.”

At this point, 8:37 pm, two hours into the meeting, Ramos said there were 25 more people signed up to speak.

The next one said he hadn’t received a notice about the meeting but was wondering if the county would consider screening, or changing the plan to a women’s shelter.

“One of the things we know is that we screen too many people out of shelter,” Ellerbrook reiterated. “Low-barrier shelters” get more people indoors and connected to services.

“The ones who can’t make it elsewhere?” shouted someone.

Next speaker asked again, why won’t this shelter be open to families?

Ellerbrook said that “co-mingled facilities” with singles, couples, and families don’t work, “because of the low-barrier nature of the shelter …”

“Because it’s not safe!” people shouted. “Just say it!”

Ellerbrook said, “What I know from our shelter operators is that they don’t operate shelters that are (co-mingled).”

So why is it safe for the shelter to be near schools? others demanded to know.

The next speaker went up and started shouting in Ellerbrook’s face from inches away.

Then another asked the question posed above – so if they’re not safe under your roof, why are they safe near schools and homes?

Ellerbrook replied, “when we have the shelter open … these folks are going to be indoors, receiving the case-management services they need. … We very clearly heard the concern about children walking down the street.”

At that point, there was another shout about raising money for a lawyer. Another person said, “I think what you people are doing is criminal, and was not done properly … I don’t really have any questions … I don’t really like the answers, they’re not really answers.” He mentioned the disc golf course at Dick Thurnau Memorial Park. “It’s taken about 30 years to get rid of homelessness and everybody’s concerns … and you’re inviting this back without (asking anyone) … I found out through neighbors. The location is terrible, around schools, in a park – 300 feet from the building – that’s where they’re going to go. It’s criminal what you guys are doing.”

Next attendee: “I don’t have kids, but it’s about the location. The way you have communicated is atrocious.” She says she enjoys running through the park without worrying … and “we know there’s a homeless problem, and I would love to work with you on a solution, but it can’t be at that location.”

A man who spoke before took the spot of a neighbor and declared again that they will crowdfund for a lawyer and “put an injunction on this. We have to stop it.” He said that as a parent he will be “sleeping with a gun on my chest.”

Former White Center Chamber of Commerce president Mark Ufkes says there’s been an overnight provider in WC “that’s has some success taking people off the street” and that he and his children took people to the shelter to get them off the street. He said he was heartened to hear that many people agree there is a problem with homelessness, and he is glad to hear that White Center is now going to do its part. “We have a lot of people in White Center who need help right now.”

The next speaker echoed that people experiencing homelessness need help.

Ellerbrook said he would be interested in a followup meeting about addressing the problem of homelessness in the community. “There are ways that (the plan) can be modified to address the concerns.”

“We’re willing to be part of the solution – give us the chance!” a woman said.

“I hear you loud and clear – you don’t want it here,” Ellerbrook said, proposing that a second meeting be held to work through concerns.

Get the word out more widely, people said. “Expand the notification!” someone said. “Tell the schools!” someone else said. “Put a stop to it (in the meantime)!” yet another person said.

Ramos then took the microphone and reiterated that they will have another meeting and get the word out.

The next speaker was a young woman who said that she is a Cascade Middle School student and she is not afraid of homeless people but she is afraid of what she has heard, that she might get hurt. “What you’re doing is wrong,” she told the meeting organizers.

Then, Sili Savusa of the White Center Community Development Association, speaking about the community’s strength, and that it “knows how to get stuff done.”

She said she heard about this and it “caught me off guard, and I thought, ‘the community needs to be part of the conversation’, but what I don’t want to see is another community like White Center to be marginalized and have a decision made without them in the room either.” She calls for a citizens’ committee to be created, and to include people experiencing homelessness. “We need to get the right people in the room to talk about this.” And, she says, she is asking that the county put a hold on the plan, “take a step back, look at it, on behalf of the homeless folks who need services all over the community.”

Ellerbrook says he will “take (Savusa) up on (the committee idea).”

We recorded the entire two and a half hour meeting on video and will add that video when it is ready, in the early morning.

7:18 AM FRIDAY: That video has now been added, atop this story.

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FOLLOWUP: Why King County wants to open a White Center shelter for people experiencing homelessness, how it will work, and who it’s for

September 13th, 2016 Tracy Posted in housing, King County, White Center news 36 Comments »

(WCN/WSB photo)

By Tracy Record
White Center Now editor

At least 100 people are sleeping outside in White Center on any given night, it’s estimated.

But there’s no official shelter anywhere nearby.

King County hopes to change that before winter, by converting the former Public Health building at 8th SW/SW 108th into a shelter for 70 people.

We first reported this after finding out about it while covering the September 1st North Highline Unincorporated Area Council meeting, where president Liz Giba mentioned an upcoming community meeting to discuss it. We subsequently obtained and published notice of the meeting, which is set for this Thursday night (September 15th).

When we contacted the King County division in charge of the project, Housing and Community Development, we were offered the chance to talk with its manager Mark Ellerbrook about the project.

Here’s what we learned in a conversation with him on Monday:

Ellerbrook reiterated that County Executive Dow Constantine and Seattle Mayor Ed Murray declared homelessness to be “an emergency” as of last November. The annual countywide One Night Count two months later found more than 300 people sleeping outside in Southwest King County alone, the “highest number of unsheltered homeless people outside Seattle,” according to Ellerbrook, with at least 100 of them estimated to be in White Center. The three zip codes that include parts of White Center, meantime, had 1,300 calls last year for homelessness-related assistance.

That indicates a high “level of need,” Ellerbrook observed, not that the county needed the numbers to be aware, since they’ve long been hearing at community meetings about people camping and/or sleeping in doorways and along streets.

But the White Center area has had no shelter to address the need – nothing between an 8-person shelter for women at a West Seattle church and a 9-person shelter for women in Burien. “A pretty high level of need, with almost no shelter services.”

So as the county assessed its resources, with the mission of deploying them toward helping with the homelessness emergency, this building came up. It also was transferred between county departments, making it more easily available for this new use.

It will operate as an “enhanced shelter,” Ellerbrook said, noting that this type of shelter was recommended by some of the reports released last week focusing on the regional crisis, one that operates without some of the restrictions that “are often barriers to people seeking shelter.”

He confirmed that the Salvation Army will operate the shelter, as part of an existing contract with the county, offering case management and other services. We asked about the cost, and he said that hadn’t been finalized yet. (We will check back.) The SA already operates some shelters in county buildings, according to Ellerbrook, and does “a really good job of managing a challenging population”; in addition, it already is involved in the area, with a facility in South Delridge.

The shelter will accept single adults and couples, 18 and over – no children.

The hours will be longer than many “overnight” shelters – opening at 5 pm, offering dinner and breakfast, and closing at 8 am, “so that folks will have more time indoors, with case management connecting in the evening and the morning.” Extra “transportation services” will be offered too, Ellerbrook said; while the location is close to three bus routes serving downtown, “the Salvation Army is going to work to provide van transportation services” so that shelter users can get to appointments, interviews, doctors, something “not typically offered.”

One question asked at this month’s NHUAC meeting – will the shelter be serving just people found to be unsheltered in this area? Ellerbrook says “all of our shelters operate regionally” – so that, for example, someone can show up at a shelter in Bellevue and say they’re from Seattle, and they will still be allowed in.

But, he added, “we’re going to actively do outreach with the Salvation Army and Sound Mental Health to the folks who are homeless in White Center, to make sure they are aware of the shelter, that they can bring their belongings and leave them (at the shelter) even when it’s closed during the day, that it’s OK for couples and pets.” The county already has outreach “in this community,” he said, including at the White Center Food Bank next to the planned shelter site, and at areas where people experiencing homelessness are known to be camping, such as along Myers Way.

Shelter users will not be screened for criminal backgrounds. “These are people who are in the community now – whether they are a felon, or someone just down on their luck, they’re camping in green spaces … our hope is to bring them into a known location like (this) so we can get them connected to services and housing and make them more of a known quantity to all the service providers.”

Also: Alcohol and drug use will not be allowed in the shelter, but if people are under the influence when they arrive, that will not keep them out. “What we find is that most folks who come in are quite tired,” Ellerbrook said.

There will be no limit on nights that people can stay in this shelter. “We often find people might come in for a short period of time, some for a long time … we really hope to move people through the system” and get them into housing, says Ellerbrook.

We asked if the building will be undergoing any major alterations to transform it into a shelter. No, said Ellerbrook, but after the community meeting, they will be applying for a permit that he says is required for “change of building use.” They hope to be able to open by November 1st, while realizing that’s a “tight timeline.”

The meeting notice also promises a discussion of the site’s future, potentially a mixed-use project with affordable housing and offices for service providers. Steve Daschle of West Seattle-based Southwest Youth and Family Services talked about this at last xx’s NHUAC meeting, and he and White Center Community Development Association executive director Sili Savusa will be at this Thursday’s meeting to discuss it.

In the meantime, Ellerbrook says the shelter could be in operation for three years.

Is the county looking at any additional potential shelter sites in White Center?

“We’re not planning anything beyond this right now,” Ellerbrook replied. “Our hope is that we will be able to get people connected and move them out” into real housing. “We hope we can move the needle on homelessness in this particular region.”

And if they can … “we might be able to re-evaluate the need for this facility.”

The community meeting on Thursday (September 15th) is at the Bethaday Community Learning Space in Dick Thurnau Memorial Park (635 SW 108th), 6:30 pm.

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