Thursday, August 23, 2007

SHARE/WHEEL -- Calling a Bluff or Accepting an Offer?

During public hearings over the final status of the Lora Lake Apartments, a Burien City Council member was heard to say, "If you believe it's acceptable to live in the flight path at Sea-Tac airport, you ought to come live there."  Well, today SHARE/WHEEL (of Tent City 3 and 4 fame) offered to do just that -- to live at the Lora Lake Apartments while their status is being determined in the courts.
Here's a letter sent by SHARE/WHEEL to Port Commission President John Creighton:
Dear President Creighton:
We respectfully request your consideration of hte following proposal: Let us move out of our tents and into the Lora Lake Apartments on September 27, 2007. In exchange, we give you our word of honor that in March 2008 we will move back out if asked by you, leaving the aprtments in as good - or better - condition than we found them.
Living in our tent community is so much safer than having to sleep alone under a bridge or a bush. But living in an apartment would be much healthier, especially when the temperature drops below freezing.
Try as we might, the winter cold and rain makes many of us sick when we are living in tents. Drying things out, keeping clean, and staying healthy is so much harder in the winter. There are a good number of older people and disabled people in Tent City 3.  The luxury of living in housing for several months would surely get more of us out of our present homeless situation and back into permanent housing.
How we would self-manage living in an apartment for the winter would be differnet, in some ways, than how we self-manage Tent city 3. In other ways it would be similar. We already pay for the garbage (dumpster and utilities (porta potties and D Cell batteries). Security patrols are already a 24/7 activitiy, and litter patrols operate daily.
You may know that SHARE is already King County's largest indoor shelter network. We also operate several houses, where our workers live. Our indoor opoerations are therefore insured. The Port of Seattle, therefore, would not be asked to pay for any operating costs and you would be an additional insured on our policy. The financial risk to you, therefore, would be negligible.
There would be other advantages to the Port of Seattle. The Lora Lake Apartments would be safeguarded by our community. We would ensure that there were not unauthorized visitors or dangerous activities. This would cut down considerably on the costs of your security guards and lighting.
Your important partner, the City of Burien, would also benefit. We of Tent City 3 eat and shop in whatever town we are in, and Burien merchants would therefore benefit.
Our partnership to temporarily reopen the Lora Lake Apartments would also reconfirm that the Port is serious about being a positive governmental entity in King County, and that the controversial stand you ahve taken on tearing down the Lora Lake Apartments was for principles reasons, not due to disregard for poor and powerless people.
SHARE is no stranger to working in partnership with the Port of Seattle. For over two years our Safe Haven Shelter operated very well in a Pier 46 Terminal Warehouse on Seattle's Central Waterfront. You can check with those we worked with - we always kept our word, kept the place clean, and when it was time to go we moved with thanks (and no pleading).
SHARE and WHEEL are both organizations made up solely of homeless and formerly homeless people. WHEEL is only women and SHARE is co-ed. When we work together our Code of Conduct is stringent - it allows no fighting or drugs, and requires non-violence and sobriety.
After 16 years, we know what works. Our community is made up of sober individuals with diverse talents. There is practically every kind of maintenance worker you can imagine living at Tent City 3.
We are confident you will give this proposal the consideration it deserves. Toward that end we are eager to meet with your representatives and outline our proposal in greater detail.
Thank you for your consideration,
Signed (by 29 members of SHARE/WHEEL)
Imagine being able to shut down Tent City 3 for a period of six months.  What a great relief this would be to people who otherwise would be living outdoors all winter long.  Port of Seattle commissioners have said they're sympathetic to the problem of homelessness.  Here's an opportunity for them to put their words into actions.



At 8:42 AM, Anonymous South County Parishioner said...


My guess is that the port commission would be open to this offer. At the last commission meeting, several of the commissioners spoke rather eloquently about the need for the region to get serious in addressing homelessness. Commissioner Creighton, who said he has lived in King County for most of the last four decades, told of his father taking him into homeless shelters in Pioneer Square in the early 70s, and questioned why the region has not done more to address homelessness.

The issues that concern the commissioners appears to be two-fold:

(1) Why has Burien become a "symbol" for the housing crisis when 100s of apartment buildings in Seattle are being torn down or converted to condominiums each year?

Would it not be morally consistent for the Housing Authority and the Church Council to call for a moratorium county-wide on the demolition of apartment buildings, not just bully Burien? Or is it okay to attempt to politically strong-arm and embarass the City of Burien, but not okay to politically strong-arm and embarass County Executive Ron Sims and Seattle Mayor Greg Nickles? Seems a little morally inconsistent to me.

(2) Why has the Church Council been so dismissive of the City of Burien's legitimate efforts to move its citizens away from living near the airport and stimulate economic development that would provide jobs and tax revenue for city services in Burien?

Seems to me, Burien has a legitimate interest, and they have been planning this move for seven years? That the Church Council would engage in name calling - blasting Burien councilmembers as "immoral" for their decision - instead of engaging in constructive dialogue seems both uncharacteristic of men and women of cloth, and it has proven singularly counterproductive, backfiring with the citizens of Burien.

At 3:34 PM, Blogger Rev. Sandy Brown said...

Thanks for your two questions. In answer to 1: Condos are still homes. Not rental homes, but still homes. According to one Burien City Council member, she'd prefer a dirt lot at Lora Lake rather than homes.

Your idea of a condo conversion moratorium is a great one and we will certainly consider that. We're already on record supporting efforts to pass a tough state law on condo conversions last year and we'll do the same this year. It's one piece of our many efforts to support affordable housing in this region.

In answer to 2: Each job generated at the Lora Lake site would come at the cost of destruction of a $32 million community resource. Those would be expensive jobs! Remember, Lora Lake is owned by all residents of King County, since the Port of Seattle is a county-wide municipality. While Burien's interests are important, the final status of the property should be determined by its actual owners -- which include all residents of the county. If Burien's genuine interest is jobs and strong economic growth, it would have been wise to say "yes" to Ron Sims' offer to buy the property. Those $s could be used to attract businesses to properties that do not have $32 million of improvements on them.

Burien's economic goals should not give it a free pass on questions of morality. Our stand is that it's just not morally right to destroy publicly-owned housing while 8,000 people are homeless in King County each night. Burien's council has been very angry about its actions being called "immoral," but if they had any sensitivity to the daily plight of people who have no homes I'm pretty sure they'd get it.


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