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 email@example.com. Most of the families will be referred from King County’s Coordinated Entry for All program, but families from the Highline school district will be prioritized, as will law-enforcement referrals.
Right now, the biggest need is for twin bed blankets and sheets, preferably new or very gently used. McDaniel said they shy away from furniture donations because of concerns such as bedbugs.
Also at NHUAC’s March meeting:
(WCN photo: NHUAC president Liz Giba and King County’s Matias Valenzuela)
Matias Valenzuela, director of King County’s Office of Equity and Social Justice, spoke to some of the concerns citizens are feeling about their civil rights. The department aims to use an equity and social justice lens when looking at community issues. That race, income, and neighborhood can dictate whether a person graduates from high school, becomes incarcerated, or is healthy – or not – is troubling, Valenzuela said.
Local action is being taken to protect immigrants, he said. County Ordinance 17886, enacted in 2014, says the county will only honor ICE detainer requests that are accompanied by a criminal warrant. Otherwise, the county will not turn someone over to ICE. Valenzuela said 70 elected officials in King County have signed an inclusive-community pledge.
He said the department is working on assisting people with the naturalization process. When asked if they have an ESL program, he said they didn’t but recommended churches or community colleges as a resource for those courses. Valenzuela said they are also working on setting up a hate-crime hotline.
The final speaker was King County’s White Center Storefront Sheriff’s Deputy Bill Kennamer.
Citing incident reports, not arrests, in the area, he said that assaults are up, but burglary is down. He noted an uptick in gang activity as a concern, mostly juveniles. Gang tagging was brought up by residents. Deputy Kennamer asked those in attendance to please report any gang tagging, because it could help them locate gang members. He said some are coming from California because the Puget Sound area doesn’t have as many law-enforcement gang units as California does. There was also concern expressed regarding prostitution in at least one local park.
Kennamer’s advice was to observe the broken window theory, which states that maintaining and monitoring an urban environment and keeping things looking well-kept, deters vandalism and crime. He advised the citizens to “take care of little quality-of-life issues, and it will keep other issues from coming up.”
The all-volunteer North Highline Unincorporated Area Council meets on the first Thursdays of most months, 7 pm at NH Fire District HQ. Between meetings, watch for updates at northhighlineuac.org.