One of our front page stories, “LIHI exec and local group in dispute over former tenant’s $99,” is a classic he-said-she-said kind of story. Sharon Lee, executive director of the Low Income Housing Institute (LIHI), said she’s been unfairly harassed at home and at work by the Seattle Solidarity Network (SeaSol).
In contrast, SeaSol said that it’s just doing what it can to fight for the little guy. In this case, the little guy is George Berumen, a former tenant of one of LIHI’s apartment buildings. LIHI develops, owns, and operates housing for the benefit of low-income and homeless people in Washington state.
Berumen said that LIHI wrongly kept his $99 security deposit after he moved out. You may think, well, $99 is not a big deal. However, $99 is particularly meaningful to Berumen, who is currently living in a homeless shelter.
LIHI said that the deposit was kept because it spent $139 to clean Berumen’s room after he moved out.
What is also notable in this conflict is the fact that LIHI doesn’t seem to be one of SeaSol’s traditional targets.
While we think SeaSol’s mission is admirable — it is a volunteer-run organization that fights on behalf of people who believe they have been taken advantage of by others in positions of power — we are uncomfortable with some of their methods. We understand them picketing LIHI’s office, but we think it’s going a bit too far to go to Lee’s home and picket her there. It seems excessive to post Lee’s phone number on flyers.
Of course, SeaSol is deliberate in its actions and has found these methods to be effective in the past.
LIHI, for its part, has also tried to fight fire with fire and sent out a press release airing some grievances against SeaSol. In turn, SeaSol updated its website with a detailed rebuttal.
We wonder, does it have to continue on like this?
It is still possible for both sides to come to the table, discuss the situation, and craft a resolution that both sides are satisfied with. They need to utilize a mediator to help resolve the issue. That someone should be a person both sides trust to be fair, a person of integrity.
A firm timeline should be set, with the goal of a swift resolution in mind. Both sides also need to agree to adhere to the outcome of mediation, whatever it may be.
After all, $99 doesn’t seem to be worth the kind of warring we’ve seen from two good-intentioned organizations.
We don’t think it’s too late to resolve this conflict. We urge both sides to take the first step in doing so. (end)