I don’t object to improving opportunity shelter for the unsheltered as with Mayor Ed Murray’s proposed Navigation Center on 12th Avenue South.
I do challenge the location because the City twice now has allowed the International District (ID)/Chinatown to be the default location for the City’s homeless population. Last summer, social services, business owners, tourist attractions, residents, and tourists endured unauthorized encampments with concomitant garbage and sanitation problems to remain for months under I-5, along Jackson and South Main Streets. The City was unresponsive and council members were unhelpful. The Seattle police were not allowed to respond to complaints, and getting garbage service there was a struggle. It was a nightmare. Strangely, WSDOT had no trouble evicting campers from their property under I-5 on the opposite side.
I challenge the wisdom of allowing individuals ‘struggling with addiction’ to be sheltered here. It has been my understanding that people with addiction issues need permanent, not temporary, housing. I challenge the wisdom of this combination of sheltering and the location, given the challenges of addiction, in our community.
The ID is a low-income immigrant community made up of small business owners, historic institutions, tourist attractions, residences, and low-income/senior housing and social services.
The needs are many, but for the most part, the City has overlooked the ID due to racism, indifference, and the calculation of minimally consequential political fallout or other consequences from this community.
If the City is to persist in making our community the site of a very politically and socially challenging and stigmatizing site, the least it can do is help this immigrant, non-white community improve its image and social and economic opportunities.
- Landscaping. The trees along Jackson are unhealthy and in need of care. More trees would be welcome.
- Sanitation: We are in need of better sanitation services and assistance with litter, garbage, and dumpster locations.
- Crime: Everyone can see the loitering and possible drug dealing and other associated problems on 5th and Jackson. This area is deplorable and makes our community look like Skid Row. There are numerous bike patrols by the SPD along 3rd, but none to be had in the ID. I am not for a police state in the ID, but given the concerns over crime in the ID, why has this not been made available as an option?
- Graffiti: The community needs to work with the City to cleanse the buildings of this graffiti, which sends negative messages nonetheless of which are absorbed by the people who pass through here from the outside. It is embarrassing and degrading.
- Business opportunities/assistance: I question the opportunities for small business assistance in the ID, especially given the proliferation of massage parlors in Little Saigon. I question their legitimacy. Moreover, I question the opportunities for the women in these ‘businesses.’ Would a woman work willingly in one of these ‘massage parlors’ if she had more opportunities for skills training and better jobs with dignity and a future? I’d like to see the community and the City apply themselves to facing and working on these issues.
This is a community that deserves to be taken seriously. Its early history is part of the early history of Seattle. This is an immigrant community and it also deserves to be taken seriously as we, as a city and State, take the lead in defending immigrants’ rights as a ‘sanctuary city’ and challenging illegal immigrant bans. Let’s take care of our problems right in our own backyard so to speak.
It is not just a place to visit, eat, and shop. People live and work here. The ID/Chinatown/Little Saigon is not a dump. It is not a dump for the City either.
The point I am trying to make is that little has been provided to help the ID/Chinatown/Little Saigon prosper and thrive, yet much has been asked of this struggling community. I ask if this is fair and proper.
I suggest that a fair balance should be achieved before too much is asked of this community without sufficient and adequate consideration and assistance provided for its present and future needs.
No less could be expected in any other community that would be expected to house such a challenging social experiment. ■