FOLLOWUP: What’s up with White Center Food Bank changes

February 20th, 2017 Tracy Posted in White Center Food Bank, White Center news No Comments »

After recent news of two top staffers leaving the White Center Food Bank, we asked the followup question: What’s really going on? Spokesperson Ian Smithgall sent the following open letter in reply:

To the community of support for The White Center Food Bank:

As many people may know, The White Center Food Bank has been going through changes over the past few months. Over this time, we have not been very transparent about many of the changes happening and we would like to take this time to be honest and open. We are hoping that this is the start to a more transparent White Center Food Bank, and more direct community engagement with the White Center, West Seattle, Highline and Burien communities.

First, we want to address the recent retirement of our longtime leader, Richard Jump. He retired on his own accord and did so under more short notice than he or the organization would have liked. However, his departure was not a surprise as he had already started conversations about setting a retirement date.

Beyond the personal reasons outlined in our previous press release, Rick felt comfortable leaving when and how he did because The White Center Food Bank team was growing and he was confident in the abilities of the remaining staff to be able to ‘weather the storm’ and grow from his legacy. We, now and forever, wish him the best and he will always be an integral part of who we are as an organization.

At this same time, a portion of our Board of Directors retired from their positions. Each retiring member had personal reasons for leaving the organization, and their departure was done with the best intentions in mind for the future of the White Center Food Bank. This change also allowed the board to look strategically towards the future, engaging in intentional board development that will prepare us for a capital campaign to grow our services and physical space at our current location in the near future.

Finally, upon Audrey Zemke’s recent retirement, The White Center Food Bank had to re-focus on our mission of continuing to keep White Center fed. Audrey was integral in the building and developing of our programs at The White Center Food Bank, and we would not be the organization we are today without the kindness and dignity that she provided to those in crisis on a daily basis. She is an inspiration to our team and will continue to shape the organization, long after her retirement.

Our commitment to keep White Center fed, coupled with the retiring of our longstanding leaders, has led the remaining Board of Directors and Staff to engage with Loveall Price & Associates – a consulting firm who is now providing staff support and development, organizational restructuring, and an acting Interim Executive Director – Carolynn Ferris – who will be guiding us through this transition. Carolynn and the LPA team will then assist us through an Executive Director search to find our new organizational leader within the year.

We have also recently hired a new Volunteer Coordinator, Carmen Smith, who will be engaging in volunteer management, recruitment and engagement within the community!

The staff and Board at The White Center Food Bank would like to let our community know that we are extremely hopeful and excited for the future. We were lucky to have had such wonderful community of support and leadership with Rick and Audrey, and we are looking forward to being able to build upon their legacy. While there will be more changes in the future, we hope that you will continue to support us in our mission to minimize hunger in the neighborhood and to provide the best emergency food services possible. We will always fight to #KeepWhiteCenterFed – come join us!

Sincerely,

The Board, staff, volunteers and clients of the White Center Food Bank.

P.S. We also just updated our logo and website! Check it out! www.whitecenterfoodbank.org

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

White Center businesses closed for Day Without Immigrants

February 16th, 2017 Tracy Posted in Businesses, People, restaurants, White Center news No Comments »

(Also posted to partner site West Seattle Blog)

Thanks to Jen Calleja for the tip – multiple White Center businesses are closed today for the Day Without Immigrants protest against the federal crackdown on immigrants. We stopped by some of the businesses she mentioned – above, the sign at Greenbridge Café; below, the signs at Salvadorean Bakery and Best Roasted Corn:

And Jen sent this collage of other businesses she found closed nearby:

We haven’t seen/heard of any other West closures – if you have, please let us know – texting 206-293-6302 is the fastest way to reach us.

Meantime, there’s news about the court fight over the presidential order on immigration – according to a news release from state Attorney General Bob Ferguson, saying a federal appeals court was notified that “the President intends in the near future to rescind the Order and replace it with a new, substantially revised Executive Order” to eliminate constitutional concerns. Ferguson’s reaction: “Let’s be clear: Today’s court filing by the federal government recognizes the obvious — the President’s current Executive Order violates the Constitution.”

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

YOU CAN VOTE: White Center Library a finalist for DJC’s ‘Building of the Year’

February 16th, 2017 Tracy Posted in Libraries, White Center Library, White Center news 1 Comment »

(WCN file photo)

Found out today from the Daily Journal of Commerce that the beautiful new White Center Library, which opened last May, is a finalist in their “Building of the Year” competition. And you can vote – go here to find out more about the contest, and to vote before the end of the month. (Scroll down – the library’s at the bottom of the list.)

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

TONIGHT: Evergreen High School principal finalists

February 15th, 2017 Tracy Posted in Education, Evergreen High School, Schools, White Center news No Comments »

From Highline Public Schools – this is happening tonight:

Meet the Finalists for the New Evergreen High School Principal

The small schools on the Evergreen Campus are unifying as a single school under the leadership of one principal. We invite students, families, and the community to join us for a Principal Candidate Forum to meet the two finalists for the new principal at Evergreen High School.

Principal Candidate Forum
Wednesday, February 15
6:00 – 7:30 p.m.
Evergreen Campus Cafeteria
830 SW 116th St.

At the forum, attendees will have an opportunity to ask the finalists questions and provide the district feedback.

Vietnamese and Spanish interpreters will be at the meeting.

Learn more about the reunification process at highlineschools.org/highschools.

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

SLIDE, OUTAGE: Highland Park Way hill closed

February 15th, 2017 Tracy Posted in safety, Traffic, White Center news No Comments »

Even if you don’t use Highland Park Way hill in West Seattle, this morning’s slide might be affecting you – either through higher traffic volumes on roads including Roxbury, or possibly with a power outage, as we’ve heard the power is or was out at least as far south as the 9th/Roxbury intersection. We have ongoing coverage on our partner site West Seattle Blog; the closure is expected to last at least through the morning commute, as downed lines are involved and that has to be rendered safe before any cleanup can begin.

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

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.

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

YOU CAN HELP: White Center family shelter work party Saturday

February 10th, 2017 Tracy Posted in How to Help, White Center news No Comments »

Tomorrow, the next step toward turning King County’s ex-Public Health building into a family shelter – a volunteer work party!

On Saturday morning, February 11, from 9 am to 1 pm, the community, the County, and Mary’s Place will come together to get the former public health building ready for families to move in. We expect over 100 people to be there, including teams from Starbucks, Amazon, and King County, helping to sweep, clean, plant, and make the building shine!

The shelter is expected to open next month.

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Another high-level departure @ White Center Food Bank: Audrey Zemke

February 7th, 2017 Tracy Posted in White Center Food Bank, White Center news 1 Comment »

One month after the White Center Food Bank announced the retirement of longtime executive director Rick Jump, it’s announcing another top-level departure. Just out of the inbox:

After over 9 years of rewarding work with the White Center Food Bank, Operations Manager Audrey Zemke will be leaving. Her last day is February 17.

Moving from Volunteer Coordinator to Operations Manager, Audrey has had the job of working with volunteers and many organizations to make sure hungry families received emergency food assistance. A West Seattle resident, Audrey has taken pride in facilitating getting food to hungry people while treating the
clients with dignity.

She said, “It has been great to work in an organization that fits a lot of my strengths and where I can take pride in the organization’s mission and programs.” Over the past nine years, the organization’s support and programming have both grown dramatically. It isn’t uncommon for all 5 of the food bank’s vans to be out some days and that means a lot is happening.

Audrey has enjoyed the varied tasks and people she has worked with. She looks forward to having more time in the near future to do photography and spending time with friends and family. She will miss the people at the food bank but will be back in White Center for visits and is excited to see what the future brings to The White Center Food Bank.

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

WHITE CENTER SNOW: No school today

February 6th, 2017 Tracy Posted in Schools, Weather, White Center news No Comments »

4:24 AM: Lots more snow overnight and so we start with big news:

HIGHLINE PUBLIC SCHOOLS, CLOSED TODAY:

More to come.

7:30 AM: White Center’s Holy Family Bilingual Catholic School is closed today too, as are other independent schools – Shorewood Christian, Explorer West Middle among them. Buses are on snow routes, and roads are snowy, so don’t go out if you don’t absolutely have to!

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

North Highline Unincorporated Area Council: North Highline Fire District’s funding fight in Olympia; homelessness updates

February 3rd, 2017 Tracy Posted in North Highline Fire District, North Highline UAC, White Center news 2 Comments »

By Tracy Record
White Center Now editor

While the announcement of last night’s North Highline Unincorporated Area Council meeting highlighted a briefing from North Highline’s fire chief, an unannounced speaker – a former NHUAC board member who is now an encampment resident – was also a highlight. Here’s how the meeting unfolded:

NORTH HIGHLINE FIRE DISTRICT: Mike Marrs, chief for 4 years in addition to being chief of Burien Fire District 2, was there primarily to explain how legislation in Olympia could be a threat to some of the money the district needs to operate – funding it secured just two years ago, with a voter-approved measure, via the “benefit charge.”

First, Marrs detailed the district’s many-faceted 75-year history, changed along the way by various annexations, districts, and alliances.

The history included how the Fire District gets funding – primarily through property taxes – and that meant a big drop during the recession almost a decade ago: “20, 30 percent.” NHFD “made some hard choices” and that included the leadership consolidation. District 2 pays NHFD to serve North Burien; NHFD pays District 2 for Marrs to be its chief as well as theirs.

“It was supposed to be a Band-Aid,” he recalled, “probably a short-term fix, get us through the economic difficulties,” and annexation by either Burien or Seattle seemed likely to happen relatively quickly. But then came the 2012 vote in North Highline “Area Y” rejecting Burien, and the “Band-Aid” has had to stay on.

In property taxes, “we levy up to $1.50 for $1,000 assessed value” for fire/EMS services, Marrs said, but “that number wasn’t enough to continue to field (the staffing they had).” That led to the Fire Benefit Charge, “instead of levying $1.50 per $1,000, you reduce your tax to $1.00, and then there’s a formula for (that charge).” It’s not a fee for service, but a charge for everyone to pay to benefit from having the service available.

The formula involves how much water would have to be put on what’s on your property if there was a fully involved fire. (More than 5,500 parcels are in the area.) The vote authorizing it was in 2014; it was applied in 2015; it has to be re-authorized by voters in 2020.

“The one thing that really resonated with the commissioners was that by using the Fire Benefit Charge, low-income, tax-exempt housing would have to pay it too. …The amount of (that) in the NHFD is dramatically higher than other places in the county. You have a lot of parcels that never paid any property taxes – the sole funding for the fire district – (including) multifamily properties that … get a high benefit from (the service). … The board felt over the years that there was a real inequity (in the 3 1/2-square-mile district)” before the charge was implemented.

100 percent of the district’s revenue used to be from property taxes; now it’s 80 percent taxes, 20 percent benefit charge. Some of the tax-exempt-property owners, though, he said, feel they shouldn’t have to pay, “because all of their money should go into … housing.”

For the past two years in Olympia, Marrs continued, there’s been legislation related to this, after fire departments elsewhere formed big regional “fire authorities” and implemented benefit charges.

The benefit charge required a 60 percent supermajority of voters to pass, but will only require a 50 percent approval for reauthorization. The regional authorities, however, need a 60 percent to reauthorize, and have been seeking to have that reduced to a simple majority.

And that’s where the trouble erupted. The entities that don’t want to pay the benefit charges, Marrs explained, have jumped onto the legislation, seeking exemptions from those charges in all sizes of fire districts/authorities. Marrs said he had been to Olympia to testify this past Tuesday. He tried to explain that larger districts have more property owners and so if they have to pick up the slack, it’s not as much of a hardship. $208,000 is the median price here; $260,000 is the median in Kent; $670,000 in Woodinville, he noted. Other areas also have bigger commercial bases to draw on, for funding.

Without the charge, Marrs stressed, there’s a real inequity in terms of properties being supported by so many others. They are currently opposing the bill, and seeking to have the proposed benefit-charge exemption removed. “We’re only asking them to contribute to the 20 percent of the budget,” not the rest of it, he reiterated. But, he said, “I think we have an uphill battle.”

Asked if the new mixed-use development on the former supermarket site in Top Hat will be tax-exempt, Marrs said he believes it will be. (We’ll follow up on that.) NHUAC vice president Barbara Dobkin pointed out that North Highline has double the poverty rate of King County in general – 25 percent, compared to 11 percent.

“How underfunded would we be without that money?” asked NHUAC board member Roslyn Hyde.

The charge could be raised and spread among the remaining taxpayers, Marrs said. “We know what King County Housing pays us … it’s all the others, we don’t know whether they would qualify,” such as the Coronado Springs apartment building, which “is a huge contributor now.” KCHA pays about $50,000 a year via the benefit charge, so for just that example, NHFD could just “go without” that money,” or raise what it charges among the remaining payers.

The benefit charge, he clarified, is a “more equitable way to generate money for the fire department” because, for example, a 2,000-square-foot house takes the same amount of firefighting whether it’s a highly valued view property or something of much less value. (In case you’re wondering, Marrs didn’t have the exact amount that a 2,000-sf house is charged, but said it was in the $150 vicinity.)

North Highline and Burien District 2 are somewhat isolated, he explained in answering another question – they don’t have a lot of mutual-aid resources (they’re still trying to improve how that works with Seattle, for example, he said).

So what can be done? asked NHUAC board member Rich Leibfried.

“We might ask people to write their representatives,” Marrs said. NHUAC president Liz Giba expressed frustration that the housing operators have been working on this for a long time but didn’t even see fit to bring it up with district/community leaders.

The House bill is HB 1467; the Senate bill is SB 5364. (Looking at the HB 1467 page on the Legislature’s website, we note that local State Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon is a sponsor.)

If communicating with legislators, you would ask them “to remove the low-income-housing exemptions from the bills.” (The main part of the bill – getting the fire authorities’ reauthorization level to 50 percent – is not something NHFD is opposing.)

Asked about NHFD’s budget this year, Chief Marrs said it includes about $1.2 million from the benefit charge, $2.2 million from the Burien contract, and ~$2 million from property taxes. They’re “behind on engine replacement”; their budget also goes to thermal-imaging cameras, backup “bunker gear” to better =protect firefighters from the high risk of cancer; body armor when they’re dealing with scenes where they’re treating victims of violence; washer-dryer equipment that has to be dedicated to separate uses (fires and violence scenes). Their calls are split roughly 80 percent medical calls, 20 percent fires and other emergencies.

SIDE NOTE: Marrs also mentioned the cardiac-survival rate of Medic One, once “best in the world” at 27 percent, with a leader who took the rate above 60 percent within about a decade. Factors include the highest citizen-CPR training, cardiac defibrillation by responders, and excellent care at local medical centers. “Your chances of walking out of the hospital alive after suffering a cardiac event in Seattle-King County is off the charts.”

(P.S. At the start of the Fire District discussion, NHUAC president Giba reminded all first that she also is a member of the NHFD Board.)

HOMELESSNESS-RELATED TOPICS: These were all discussed in the final segment of the meeting.

First, NHUAC board member Hyde recapped last week’s meeting at which the new plan for the White Center shelter was officially announced (WCN coverage here), with Mary’s Place planning to open a family shelter, starting with about 30 people, at 8th/108th, likely on or by March 1st. She said a “wish list” of needed items would be forthcoming once there’s somewhere to store such items. Pack ‘n’ Plays and twin bedsheets are among the most-needed items, she noted. You can also apply to volunteer, via a link on the Mary’s Place website. And she reminded all of the February 11th work party.

Second, Camp Second Chance – Dobkin said she was at last night’s City of Seattle-operated meeting about what has been an unauthorized encampment since last summer on Myers Way (WCN coverage here) and is about to be made by the City of Seattle into an authorized encampment. Among other things, she said it was disappointing that no one from King County had been invited to the meeting. Leibfried noted that most of the concerns voiced were about campers outside CSC.

Then a camp resident – former NHUAC board member Patrick Mosley, who served on the board 2010-2012 – came up to the podium.

Mosley said he became homeless after losing his spouse and his home. He had been living in his truck – until an exhaust leak. He first went to a shelter in Fremont and discovered some things about it that didn’t work …including issues with a longtime encampment operator (SHARE). Then he went back to California for a while, and, when returning here to visit his children, he learned about the splinter group that had formed Camp Second Chance.

Mosley talked about the camp’s self-sufficiency and quest for 501(c)(3) status, and an eventual plan to have it become a business. “SHARE isn’t necessarily happy that this encampment is there” because of it being sanctioned, he said. He said he’s been at the camp for about three months, and that it’s a “model camp – the first time that people in this situation have a chance to make a difference … in this situation.”

He talked about a friend who committed a crime “during a few minutes of a bad mistake” who will likely never be able to get a job again. He said the camp works to help people get and stay sober, is working to help people learn skills such as gardening, is working to set up a system to get people

“It may not affect you now but it might in the future … so it’s best to set up a relationship before you (possibly) need it.”

Giba asked him what he feels about the people living outside the camp. “What do they mean to you, living there?” He said he has spoken to many of them whom he sees daily. “It’s a similar situation but different.” One man for example has mental issues. He explained that everyone at the camp has to chip in $20/month to help pay for things such as propane. Substance abusers, for example, aren’t interested in doing that. “There are a lot of drug, and drug issues, over there … but there are everywhere.” He also noted that not all the trash you see in the area was left “by the homeless people” – some is dumped by people from elsewhere. He said there are a variety of difficult circumstances, such as people going through the “revolving door” of prison/jail, and

An attendee asked about people being required to take housing if it’s offered/available. “Part of the contract with the city is that if they offer it, we can’t refuse it.”

He said would-be campers soon will have to pass a background check to see if they are a sex offender, to sign that they understand the camp’s rules, that they attend the Monday meetings.

Polly Trout from Patacara Community Services, announced last night as the camp’s operator, said that the camp will continue to be self-governing, but that her organization “We’re enrolling everyone in the new King County Coordinated Entry …but the reality is that there’s not enough housing for everyone.” She said people are prioritized, such as severely disabled people, youth, and families. About half the CSC residents are working, he said, but don’t fit into those prioritized categories. “There are some people on disability who are on waitlists,” for example, or awaiting disability-payment eligibility.

Trout said they’d been asked how people can help the camp and its residents. “If you need a handyperson or someone to mow your lawn, you might think about coming to the camp.” She said she would not recommend someone unless she could recommend them wholeheartedly. She mentioned a couple who had lived in the camp for a while and have just moved into a rental room at a house of a friend of Trout’s.

She was asked for a little more background on herself; she’s been working with Seattle-area homeless people for 15 years, 12 of those with youth in the U-District via Seattle Education Access. She formed Patacara with an interest in something more intergenerational.

From the audience, attendee Ben Calot contended that “there are jobs out there for everyone”; he was an employer and had an employee “who smoked crack in the bathroom every day on shift.”

10 percent of CSC’s residents have been moving into housing every month, Trout said. Mosley said it has 15 residents right now, and that they’re likely to grow to 70. And the camp will be voting on potential use of “tiny houses,” as a result of what city reps said at last night’s meeting. They will consider building tiny houses themselves; other encampments generally have tiny houses built by donors. “The city has authorized us to have 50 tents and/or tiny houses,” Trout added.

What happens after two years? she was asked. They will have to find somewhere to move to, she said.

Next speaker, area resident Pat Lemoine – who said at the previous night’s meeting, and reiterated at this one, that he has a “plan to get Camp Second Chance housed.” He said he’d dealt with unemployment in the 2008 recession and came up with a plan to live on $24,000/year. “I started looking at the $50m that the city of Seattle is paying to deal with the homeless. I could live 2,083 years on that!” He noted that 4,500 people had been counted as homeless. Many have “some form of income” – a job, Social Security, etc. – and he noted that he would be eligible for $1,000/month if he retires at 62, “a $12,000 income a year, which is half the ($24,000) sum.” 4,166 people could live on the money the city is spending, he said, pointing to the written plan he had distributed last night and again tonight. He noted that one complaint is that there’s not enough affordable housing out there, but, he said, researching online, he found about 800 apartments for $1200 or less. “My plan here is more for the people who have their stuff together” – not necessarily those dealing with drugs or mental issues – “if we could get even 10 percent of (homeless people) housed …that makes it a smaller problem.” So, he believes, just a fraction of the $50 million could help. $600,000 could house everybody in Camp Second Chance right now, for example, he said, acknowledging that leases might be a challenge, “but with the power of the city … lawyers could get involved if necessary … I don’t see it as that big of a deal to get the easiest (people) housed right now.”

NHUAC president Giba said the plan of housing people instead of having them live in tents “makes sense to me.”

Attendee Calot said that it’s clear to him that Seattle is wasting its money on encampments, “making things worse,” even though it has an expert report it paid for that says Housing First is the way to go, not encampments.

“So,” asked Patrick Mosley from the audience, “what do you do in the meantime?”

The city is wasting its money on short-term goals but should be working on long-term goals rather than dedicating all its resources and energy on the former. “If we don’t focus on long-term results, we’re not going to get long-term results.” He said they want to see the “drug encampments” on Myers Way cleaned up rather than the city “allowing criminality to run rampant.”

Another area resident said that those other campers, including those in RVs, are giving a bad name to everyone around them, including CSC.

Lemoine summarized that while the county and city have declared “a state of emergency” regarding homelessness, he doesn’t see anything getting done, compared to past emergencies in wartime and other times. He wondered aloud how much of the money has gone to things aside from housing and direct solutions – how much to “writing reports,” for example.

Trout said that she appreciates some of Lemoine’s ideas, and noted that she has never before had a government contract, and “is learning a lot….I have to say that if you want a quick and frugal solution, DON’T go to the government.” That evoked laughter around the room. “We’re going to need smaller, private solutions (too),” she added.

Final related topic – Leibfried had participated in the One Night Count of people living unsheltered around King County, and Giba asked him for some thoughts. He said he had hoped to volunteer in this area but was sent to a different part of the city, with “someone who was not very well-trained,” but it was “kind of a fun experience.” He mentioned the change in methodology for this year, “gridd(ing) out the entire city,” not just looking where organizers thought people would be living outdoors. He was sent to the Burke-Gilman Trail in Wedgwood and did find a group in an RV. “It was a bit of a media circus.” Mosley asked him how accurate he thought the count would turn out. “More accurate than not doing it at all,” Leibfried said.

From the audience, a man who said he moved here a year ago from Chicago said it was disorganized there too.

TRIBUTE TO CASS TURNBULL: Vice president Dobkin offered a tribute to Cass Turnbull of Plant Amnesty and TreePAC, who died suddenly earlier this week. “It’s a huge loss … she had a vision for Myers Way … (to) save that property … otherwise it would all be paved over.”

JUBILEE DAYS: Saturday, April 1st, announced secretary Pat Price, there’ll be a prime-rib dinner/auction event, including “nominating a mayor of White Center,” to raise money for this year’s Jubilee Days – “save the date.”

WESTSIDE BABY’S COMMUNITEA: Price also announced the March 12th benefit tea at the Sea-Tac Hilton for White Center-headquartered WestSide Baby.

WHITE CENTER SUMMIT: Board members were asked about last weekend’s event. Several of them were there. Leibfried said that it seemed to him that more networking was in order. Three ideas emerged, according to an attendee from WCCDA: A youth council, a safety group, and a health initiative, particularly support for the coalition working ond drug abuse. “Is that posted somewhere?” he was asked. Reply: “Not yet … it will be.” Another item on the wish list, Hyde said – “a big community calendar.”

The North Highline Unincorporated Area Council meets first Thursdays most months, 7 pm, at North Highline Fire District headquarters. Watch northhighlineuac.org for updates between meetings. And if you have ideas for upcoming meetings, board members say, let them know – you can find contact info on the aforementioned website.

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Myers Way encampment: As-it-happened coverage of city-organized meeting

February 2nd, 2017 Tracy Posted in White Center news 1 Comment »

(EDITOR’S NOTE: This was published as-it-happened on our partner site West Seattle Blog. The software there is misbehaving and is refusing to accept more comments on the story, so we’re cross-posting it here, where we use a different template that shouldn’t be experiencing the problem, which we’re trying to troubleshoot. Oddly, the last time we had the same problem was while live-chronicling a meeting last summer about a related topic at the same place.)

*************

IMG_8490

7:03 PM: We’re at the Joint Training Facility on Myers Way, a short distance north of the encampment that the city plans to change into a larger, sanctioned encampment. This is the first major meeting since that announcement. The city’s director of homelessness, George Scarola, is emceeing. He promises to answer questions that were raised at the smaller December meeting that followed the announcement. We’ll be updating as this goes.

First bit of news from Scarola – apparently Polly Trout of Patacara Community Services will be the camp’s operator “if we clear all the hurdles.” Her nonprofit has been supporting it.

Now, a list of speakers. First, Jason Johnson, deputy director of the Human Services Department, which is accountable for dealing with homelessness. He directs those interested to the city’s online FAQs resulting from their first three sanctioned encampments (Myers Way will be one of three more announced so far).

He confirms Patacara will be the operator, that it will remain a “clean and sober” encampment, and that it’s expected to grow to “50 units – about 70 people.” The encampment, as a sanctioned camp, will have an “operating budget” including trash, rodent abatement, toilets. What about “tiny houses” at this camp, as with the others sanctioned by the city? Johnson didn’t directly answer it but said the others have some but didn’t start out that way. Timeline: One year, with a potential renewal for a second year. “Two years is the maximum an encampment can remain permitted at any one location.” And the operator is expected to set up a “community advisory committee.”

Two questions from attendees: From a resident at nearby Arrowhead Gardens – what does “basic hygiene services” mean – will they have portable showers? Johnson says they’re still working on the contract and budget and don’t know yet. From someone else: What happens to the camp residents after those (potential) 2 years? Johnson says there will be “case management and services (at the site) … to continuously work to help people to navigate … into whatever is better, next, for them” – housing, “reunification with family,” etc.

Second, Patacara’s Trout, who says she’s been working with Camp Second Chance since June.

trout

“(It) is a really extraordinary community,” she said, calling it an “organized, ethical, diligent group of people.” She says it can be “a healthy place for people who have recently been through a lot of trauma,” and a “safe place” as well as a place where people are “experiencing kindness.” Partnering with the city will “improve the physical quality of life” there, including water and Dumpsters. She promises that the camp will be “good neighbors to the housed neighbors in the neighborhood.”

1st question for her, what about the trash from unauthorized camping across the street? That’s not in her bailiwick, she says, but they might have “litter patrols.”

2nd question – who are/will be there? What ages? “We’re not going to have any children in the camp,” Trout replied. And “the intake process is managed in a democratic way by the camp itself.”

One attendee interjects that the camp originally turned up on the Myers Way Parcels site “because it broke through a fence … there was no community involvement.”

Next speaker, Mike Ashbrook from the city Department of Finance and Administrative Services, which is accountable for the site as city property. He says “the plan is to quarantine off the wetlands and any known sensitive areas we have” but also to protect access for City Light and others who need to get to part of the site.” “We also understand that the site has contamination issues,” and says they have been working with King County Public Health to “try to mitigate” that. He mentions the kiln dust “in a define area” and says test wells have been drilled to confirm it’s not spreading out. An attendee challenges that and offers a thumb drive that he says has a report on it showing otherwise.

Attendee question: “Why didn’t you plan these things about water and garbage before you started, instead of now saying ‘you’re gonna, you’re gonna’?” Ashbrook says they are “allowed” to provide those services “once a camp gets sanctioned.”

7:29 PM: Next, Susan Fife-Ferris from Seattle Public Utilities, saying, “I’m here to talk garbage.” The camp has gotten “bag service” so far, she says, but will be delivering a Dumpster on Friday. (Added: Photo we took of the bag stack north of the camp earlier today)

IMG_8488

She says there’s been a “litter crew” cleaning along Myers Way at least weekly. “If you see an illegal dump, use Find It Fix It or call our illegal-dumping line, and we will clean it up within 10 business days” – if it’s on public property/right of way. She also mentions the sharps program and says you can report those and they will be picked up within 24 hours; there are six drop boxes around the city, and they can be dropped at the South Transfer Station (which is in nearby South Park). She insists the campers “want to be good neighbors” in terms of keeping things cleaned up.

First attendee question for her: How do homeless people have so much garbage? Fife-Ferris says that’s “personal” so she can’t really answer that but she expects a “significant decrease” once the Dumpster is being provided. Second is about sharps disposal, and she and Scarola reiterate the 24-hour commitment.

Next speaker – Southwest Precinct commander Capt. Pierre Davis.

davis

He gets applause, but the cheers are even louder for Community Police Team Officer Todd Wiebke, the precinct’s point person on homelessness-related issues. Davis mentions a department “navigation team” of eight who will be handling these issues citywide. He says that Camp Second Chance is well-organized in his view, compared to others he’s dealt with. Switching gears, he says that if there are any “criminal issues … that we need to know about,” don’t hesitate to report it.

Questions: The audience member who’s been challenging speakers says he’s waited “hours” for police response. “Do you have any numbers about how much better it’s going to get?” Davis replied, “No one should have to wait that long. (But) we do not dispatch from our precinct – calls go through 911, and they prioritize.” So, the audience member says, “how can you commit to any improvement?” Davis admits they might not be able to, because officers are not dispatched from the precinct. “That’s not acceptable.” It’ll have to be, for now, Davis says, adding that he would love to have more officers.

Gunner Scott from Highland Park Action Committee, a nearby community council, asks how SPD will work with KCSO, which apparently doesn’t have a representative here, given the camp is close to the border. Who do you call, what do you do, if a criminal crosses the line? Scott says that Camp 2nd Chance isn’t the problem so much as the RVs along the street. “There’s a lot of real estate out there… some is city of Seattle, some is King County,” and KCSO has resource challenges too, he notes.”If there’s an issue where we can collaborate,” they do. “We put the best effort we possibly can with the resources we have to get out there and get after our bad guys.” He mentions the precinct’s new bicycle team, 6 officers and a sergeant (at another meeting we covered recently, it was mentioned they are still awaiting bicycles for four of them). He said they are going down the hillside on the east side, into the “Grotto” area among other areas.

Next question: An attendee says he understands that SPD has been told to “stand down” on some crimes, so can people be told which ones. He says he witnessed an assault and an unsatisfactory police response when Camp Second Chance arrived last summer. “First of all, there is no ‘stand down’ process,” Davis replies. “We can only go by the information that’s given us” in terms of making an arrest.

After that, a nearby resident says when she calls 911 to report a problem, the dispatcher has no idea what area they are talking about, so can the dispatchers be better-educated in where Myers Way is? “That sounds like something we need to work on,” Capt. Davis agrees. Maybe, he says, SPD can even meet with dispatchers, and he then suggests that having a dispatch-center rep at the next meeting would be a good idea. “And King County Sheriffs,” someone else calls out.

7:50 PM: Back when “Nickelsville” was in Highland Park, no matter how the camp was run, it was an “attractive nuisance” drawing trouble to the surrounding area, the next person points out, so what can be done about that? Davis says that’s a “polarizing issue” and they’re trying to figure out “how to tackle that.” He said the SPD “navigation team” will be dealing with that.

Now, another city manager, Rodney Maxie of Seattle DOT, who says that street maintenance and urban forestry are among the divisions for which he is accountable. He says he hears a Find It Fix It Walk is coming up here soon – local community leaders say, “News to us! When?” – and Scarola says, we’re announcing it now. Apparently it will be in Highland Park. No date yet.

He acknowledges issues with “borders” on city, county, state land in the area and says various city departments have formed a new partnership with WSDOT to take on these issues. In response to a question, he says agencies/jurisdictions are “coming together” to clean up areas no matter whose land they’re happening on.

“You could take care of a lot of problems if you put up signs saying ‘no overnight camping along Myers Way,” suggests an attendee. Maxie says that they have to “assess the constitutionality of everything and make sure we’re treating everybody fairly.” He also says they are working on addressing “new no-parking zones” regarding RVs as well as other vehicles.

8 PM: An attendee asks about issues brought up regarding another of the three upcoming sanctioned encampments – one to be opened in Georgetown – and pedestrian issues. Maxie says some sidewalk, barrier, traffic-calming improvements are being planned. “When will it be implemented?” Maxie replies, “Probably in the next few weeks – it’s going to be really quick.” He then mentions this is a different situation, starting as an unsanctioned encampment that the city has decided to sanction.

HPAC’s Scott says they asked about lighting on Myers Way at the December meeting, and wonders what is planned. Maxie says the Find It Fix It walk can address that – and attendees say, no, that’s not going to be a Myers Way Find It Fix It. Maxie starts to say that there are issues raised by lighting. Scarola apologizes for not addressing this, while saying, “That’s a tough issue, lighting.” Scott challenges, “When will we get an answer? Friday?” Scarola says it was “my mistake,” and promises an answer by the end of February.

Final city speaker, Robert Stowers from Seattle Parks, to talk about the long-term plan for Myers Way Parcels. He says it will be a “few years” before FAS transfers the land to Parks, and they will have to examine their funding for what they can do. He promises that the city will come out then and “engage” the community about “what you want in a park.”

“We want it now!” somebody shouts out. “We don’t have the land yet,” Stowers reiterates. Parks already has “about a dozen landbanked sites waiting to be parks” around the city, he notes. (Three of them are in West Seattle.)

First question is more of a statement – Seattle Green Spaces Coalition is going to be “visioning” for the land’s future, and invites Parks to participate. Someone else suggests that the city should put some money into development in exchange for the area “hosting” the camp.

When will the date for the transfer be announced? HPAC’s Scott says. No answer to that.

What about Hamm Creek? is another question. Since it’s not Parks property, Stowers says, he doesn’t know.

8:09 PM: The speakers are done, and now it’s on to a general Q/A period.

questionline

Officer Wiebke takes on the Hamm Creek question. Dealing with campers in that area “is going to be whack-a-mole,” he says. When was the last time you went into that area? an attendee asks. “Probably a couple weeks,” Wiebke replies. He adds that while he believes he’ll be safe heading into that area, policy requires that he have “resources” with him if he goes into the area. He mentions a 2-day project late last year that cleaned up the area – “you probably remember the tractors.”

IMG_8513
Wiebke at right with Scarola

But, “I don’t believe I’ve ever been to a cleanup where we’ve gotten everything.” He answers the question asked earlier about “why so much trash” – “A lot of these people are outdoor hoarders,” because of mental challenges, he says. He mentions finding bicycle frames but not being able to match them to owners because “most people don’t register their (bicycles).”

Back to Hamm Creek, he says the water and soil have been tested – he doesn’t know how recently, but has not heard of any pollution problems detected. “I don’t think they’re (relieving themselves) directly in the stream.”

Question for Trout – is one Dumpster enough? (And other refuse concerns.) Fife-Ferris from SPU answers instead. The Dumpster might be picked up daily, she says – they will expect Trout to tell them how often they need pickup. Might be “two Dumpsters picked up every other day.” Trout says she talked with Waste Management about one Dumpster each for trash, recycling, composting, and that they hope to help pick up the rest of Myers Way.

Scarola at this point mentions that City Councilmember Lisa Herbold is here. She wants to ensure the written record of the meeting is kept, so dates can be followed up on, etc. Scarola agrees to that.

Next person is local resident Pat Lemoine, who says he has an alternative plan “that could get everybody in Camp Second Chance into homes in the next week for $600,000.” How much is the encampment budget? he asks. Human Services Department rep Johnson says that the budget for all the sanctioned encampments is less than $1 million.

The next question is about more specifics regarding the partnership between SPD and KCSO. Are there regular meetings, etc.? No, Capt. Davis says, the structure “depends on whatever happens across the borders.” He says other department reps, however, are often at the SPD SeaStat meetings. He mentions the prospect of annexation, and that has put an extra spotlight on the area. He mentions a crackdown led by an multi-agency task force a few years back.

Brought up next – a sinkhole problem in the area, “8 feet across and 30 feet deep,” Officer Wiebke says, “near the church.” He says he’s not sure whether “piping” was to blame, but SDOT came out, “filled the hole back in.” It was first reported by “a homeless lady living right next to it,” who told him that the soil moves in the area so “at night you can hear the trees twisting and turning.”

Next is the attendee who says he’s been attacked by “forest and RV campers,” and wants more of a commitment to “making our neighborhood more safe.” He says he was advised by deputies and officers that he was told he should carry a firearm if he’s going into that area. Capt. Davis said he doesn’t know the context of the conversation but says that if they’re going into that area to report things via Find It Fix It, “give us a call.” “So what kind of response can we expect” with that kind of response? is the followup – what kind of time commitment? “Give us a call,” Capt. Davis reiterates.

At this point, Scarola tries to say they have to wrap up the meeting due to a promise to be done by 8:30. Several people are still in line. If they go fast, they can do it, Scarola agrees. First person wants more King County reps at future meetings. Next, were any King County elected officials invited to this meeting? No. “Sounds like I’m going to fix that,” Scarola adds. Next, Randy from South Park says that the “disconnect between 911 and precinct officers” is a long-running citywide problem. He also says that local leaders should be told that permanent housing is needed so people don’t have to live in encampments. That drew applause.

What community outreach was done about this encampment plan? the next person asks, saying he had only heard a bit about this before. “How do you keep the dialogue open with the most amount of people who are going to be affected by this homeless encampment in our backyard, in addition to all the RVs and the trash?” Scarola says the Community Advisory Committee will have a role, as will organizations such as the White Center Community Development Association.

“We have to do a better job,” Scarola says.

Next: “We are in a state of emergency on homelessness, declared in 2015,” says a woman. “The only difference is that the people in the camp are unhoused. We are human beings and it is a human right to have affordable housing.” She was applauded. “We are human beings and we deserve to live with dignity.”

Mary Fleck from the Seattle Green Spaces Coalition says they are engaged currently in wanting to take of the land and wants Parks to commit “to meet with us and work with us now,” not in several years. She asks Stowers to meet with them and he agrees, while reiterating that Parks doesn’t own the property yet. “But yeah, we can start talking right now,” he says.

Following that, a question about the first sanctioned encampments, which Johnson says have just been renewed through this year. “What happens to those people” after this year? he’s asked. He says it’s not a “static” group of people, but he doesn’t have data about how many have moved into housing.

Then Christopher speaks and says he’s a camper, though not in the encampment. “Homelessness, houselessness, is a never-ending problem if we don’t come together” to solve it. He is on the verge of tears.

Scarola then summarizes the meeting as “respectful and positive” and says “the issues that have been raised are all legitimate, and they deserve a hearing.” He says there are various agencies to which you can report problems, and waves a card that has hotline numbers on it.

It’s also mentioned that the North Highline Unincorporated Area Council meets tomorrow night (7 pm, North Highline Fire District, 1243 SW 112th).

8:39 PM: Meeting’s over. We’ll be adding more photos and links when we’re back at HQ.

9:24 PM: We spoke with Scarola post-meeting. He said yes, there will be another meeting, as had been requested, date/”form” TBD. The Find It Fix It Walk for Highland Park is likely to be in “late spring,” he said.

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

WHITE CENTER SUMMIT 2017: ‘Now we can help’

January 30th, 2017 Tracy Posted in White Center Community Development Association, White Center news 1 Comment »

Story and photos by Cliff Cawthon
Reporting for White Center Now

On Saturday, more than 200 people gathered at this year’s White Center Summit, organized by the White Center Community Development Association (WCCDA) at the Evergreen Campus.

In contrast to the tumult resulting from actions taken in “the other Washington” just before the weekend, the summit gathered a diverse cross-section of the community to create networks between neighbors and organizations and to discuss solutions.

The summit kicked off with exhibitions from a variety of service organizations, community foundations, and nonprofit organizations. “The challenge of White Center being unincorporated Seattle and not having a local government structure [can be] to support some of the services and local activities,” said Sili Savusa, WCCDA executive director. The community summit was organized in order to harness the power of the community, as Savusa expressed that [White Center residents] “feel that there’s still strength here by the people who live here.”

Residents highlighted concerns around education, health, economic development, neighborhood safety, and affordable housing. There was a thoroughfare of organizations offering different services and promoting advocacy for components of the community.

Two of the organizations tabling at the event were the YES Foundation of White Center and H.E.L.P., represented by Pat Thompson and Rayonna Tobin, respectively. The YES Foundation is focused on serving children and youth and connecting them with programs on leadership and post-secondary education. The latter organization supports families of incarcerated people, whether it comes to counseling and emotional support or making up for the loss of income and stability in the home.

After some mingling, breakout groups were formed to seek innovative solutions for community concerns identified by participants, including: Youth; Affordable Housing; Neighborhood Safety; Economic Development; Education and Health Strategies.

Participants in the breakout sessions took away either contacts or information to help develop the neighborhood. During the economic development session, Hugo Garcia, a risk-management officer with Craft3, a Community Development Financial Institution, discussed how his organization helps “fill the gap” where other banks fail to support small businesses, nonprofit programs and projects, etc.

The gap that the lifelong White Center resident referred to was the aversion that banks and other traditional financial institutions have toward supporting some of White Center’s small entrepreneurs of color, immigrants, and women.

During the affordable-housing breakout session, facilitated by Marie Pino, a neighborhood-outreach coordinator with the WCCDA, residents addressed the increasingly stark challenge of finding affordable housing in White Center due to development.

“The things that we have [found] on our map today are new commercial developments … that people don’t recognize, and we’ve seen some changes in ethnic communities,” said Giulia Pasciuto, a policy researcher with Puget Sound Sage.

The research conducted by Puget Sound Sage and Futurewise shows that these new developments have raised rents and introduced new market-rate apartments. Traditionally low-cost housing has become more inaccessible as “housing prices are increasing just north of the White Center border in Seattle. The home-ownership price in White Center has increased substantially in the last few years.” In Pasciuto’s opinion, a mixture of strategies – similar to comprehensive efforts within Seattle city limits – is necessary.

For Savusa, the housing and economic-development data that community partners have gathered is essential. “Our role is to find those resources and bring them into the community and find commitments to [work on] what [is] important here to the families,” as Savusa described the CDA’s role in building the community’s assets. For Savusa and the CDA, “what gets in the way are a lot of policies [that] get put into place” that don’t reflect the nuances of White Center’s diversity.

After the workshops, I found the opportunity to speak with Joyce Yee of the League of Education Voters. She was tabling at the event and is currently hoping to not just advocate for more funding for schools, but for how it is used in K-12 education: “Our main message is that it should be an equity question about how do we drive more funding to schools and students who need more, [such as] English as a second language and special-needs students, and those in special assistance programs.”

Educators and education advocates who had ties with the community made up a significant percentage of the attendees. Tonya Powers, director of Baccalaureate Programs and Workforce at Highline College, explained that Highline offers services to residents of White Center and that its student population is expanding due to rising housing costs in Seattle leading more people relocating to South King County, including locations like White Center.

As the event came to a close, Hodan Bulale, the CDA’s Family Success Partner of the event, spoke a bit with me about the post-summit work. She spearheaded outreach to many community partners and stakeholders, as well as personal connections – since many CDA employees were born and/ or raised in White Center: “We got to have a conversation about things that really matter … really important things that impact [us] on a daily basis. I like how they were a part of this conversation. We understand, we can relate and now we can help.”

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

THURSDAY: North Highline Unincorporated Area Council spotlights NH Fire District

January 29th, 2017 Tracy Posted in North Highline Fire District, North Highline UAC, White Center news Comments Off on THURSDAY: North Highline Unincorporated Area Council spotlights NH Fire District

7 pm Thursday, you’re invited to this month’s North Highline Unincorporated Area Council meeting. From president Liz Giba:

Please join North Highline’s volunteer community council at our February 2, 2017 meeting.

The Opportunity to Be Informed, Be Involved and Be Heard!

Our past influences our present as well as our future. In 2014, our fire district, the North Highline Fire District, asked and we answered. We approved a fire benefit charge aimed at equitably spreading the cost of fire protection and emergency medical services. Join NHUAC in welcoming Fire Chief Mike Marrs to NHUAC. Chief Marrs will discuss where our fire district has been, where NHFD is today, and the road to staying on track to reestablish a healthy, stable fire district.

Good of the Order will provide community members time to discuss what’s on their minds. Do you have something of community importance to share ? Join us and share!

See you Thursday, February 2nd at 7 PM – Bring a Neighbor!

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

TODAY: 2017 White Center Summit

January 28th, 2017 Tracy Posted in White Center Community Development Association, White Center news 2 Comments »

Just a reminder – 8 am to 3 pm today at the Evergreen campus, you’re invited to this year’s White Center Summit. Full details are in this preview published earlier this month.

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

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.

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

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).

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

WHITE CENTER BIZNOTE: My Choice Espresso reopens

January 23rd, 2017 Tracy Posted in Beverages, Businesses, White Center news Comments Off on WHITE CENTER BIZNOTE: My Choice Espresso reopens

Coffee fans are reminded that My Choice Espresso has reopened. It was closed for three months before new owner Andre Johnson took over, we’re told, but now it’s back in business and ready to serve you. The stand is at 10439 16th SW and open 5 am-5 pm Mondays-Fridays, 6 am-5 pm Saturdays, 7 am-3 pm Sundays.

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

VIDEO: Annexation briefing @ Seattle City Council committee

January 18th, 2017 Tracy Posted in Annexation, White Center news 2 Comments »

As Seattle City Councilmember Bruce Harrell observed toward the end of this afternoon’s briefing on two proposed annexations including North Highline, he has a lot of new colleagues, and the annexation process is a lot for them to get up to speed on. So the briefing for the Education, Equity, and Governance Committee – which Harrell chairs – was all about the process; it offered no surprises or headlines, but you can see it in its entirety in the video above (starting 54 minutes in).

Kenny Pittman, the Seattle city staffer who has long been point person on annexations, led the briefing. He said the city had not yet begun to negotiate an “interlocal agreement’ with King County regarding North Highline, but continues working on one for the South Park/Duwamish annexation area that is expected to go to a vote first – possibly later this year. That area has fewer than 100 registered voters, while the North Highline area has more than 8,600.

Harrell suggested that 2018 is probably the best time frame for a possible North Highline vote – if his colleagues agree to send it to voters – but maybe sooner. He also said he looked forward to a “strong outreach” for both areas. Pittman acknowledged that the city hasn’t had any outreach in North Highline recently (the last meeting in our archives was the one at Dubsea Coffee in March of last year).

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

White Center Community Summit planned for January 28th

January 17th, 2017 Tracy Posted in White Center Community Development Association, White Center news Comments Off on White Center Community Summit planned for January 28th

Just announced – this year’s White Center Community Summit, coming up on January 28th. From the WC Community Development Association:

White Center Community Summit 2017 at Evergreen High School
830 SW 116th
Saturday, January 28th 8:00 AM-3:00 PM

Each year the White Center CDA hosts a community summit to bring neighbors together to talk about the state of their community and plan for White Center’s future – on January 28, the CDA will host the annual summit at Evergreen High School.

This year’s summit theme is “Call to Action.” What current initiatives are being undertaken and how can we, as community members, come up with our own solutions to growing our community strengths or addressing community issues? The Summit is also a time to celebrate ourselves as a neighborhood, so please bring a friend and join us!

The summit is always free and open to every resident of White Center, including youth. Free child care, interpretation services, and breakfast and lunch are provided.

We start early with free breakfast and local community organizations tabling so that residents can meet and learn about groups working in their neighborhood. There will also be offerings from local businesses like food and product samples, so attendees can celebrate businesses, parks, & upcoming events in White Center.

All summit attendees will hear a brief overview of the “State of White Center”, exploring trends in major issue areas, and then will have the opportunity to break out into small groups to discuss and mobilize around an in-depth issue of their choice – housing, health, economic development, safety, or education.

Youth, don’t be shy – you’ll be given special time to learn about each topic and present your findings to the larger groups.

Last year, residents came together to meet with county, city, and CDA staff to learn about as well as voice concerns and ask questions about annexation. The results of last year’s summit will be available for attendees to view.

You can register via wcsummit.org.

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Annexation briefing on Seattle City Council agenda for Wednesday

January 17th, 2017 Tracy Posted in Annexation, White Center news Comments Off on Annexation briefing on Seattle City Council agenda for Wednesday


(Map from agenda for January 18th City Council committee meeting)

We watch Seattle City Council agendas for our partner site West Seattle Blog, and just found out that Wednesday afternoon’s meeting of the council’s Education, Equity, and Governance Committee will include an annexation briefing, both the North Highline and South Park/Duwamish proposals.

Documents for the meeting at 2 pm Wednesday (January 18th) in City Council chambers at City Hall are online. This one says that the city is currently looking at 2018 for the potential North Highline vote, and includes other details:

(If you can’t read it via Scribd, see the PDF here.) City Councilmember Lisa Herbold, who represents West Seattle and South Park, had told us the same thing recently regarding timeline, saying that the South Park annexation was moving more slowly than expected so she didn’t expect the possible NH vote before 2018.

Keep in mind that the City Council still has steps to take before it even calls for a vote. Wednesday’s briefing is NOT an action item, so there is no vote of any kind scheduled, but the committee meeting does have a public-comment period.

AddThis Social Bookmark Button