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.