The City of Seattle, in partnership with the Africatown Community Land Trust (ACLT), will open a new 125-room, 24/7 “enhanced shelter” at the former Keiro nursing home site.
The City will be opening new 24/7 shelter options throughout the City, according to The Seattle Medium.
In addition, King County and the City of Seattle are investing $15 million to continue the JustCARE program in Pioneer Square and Chinatown-International District (CID), with particular focus on City Hall Park.
We can see and understand that the City must be under enormous pressure to get unhoused, high-risk folks off the sidewalks and public parks. We know that City Hall Park has been the scene of overdoses, attacks, and the potential source of a sex offender who recently attacked a female employee in the restroom of the Courthouse. Amazingly, he was not booked or held after arrest, but that is another story.
There are troubling questions that arise out of these projects, specifically the 24/7 “enhanced shelter” for the Keiro site.
How much is the CID expected to absorb out of this current and future expansion of 24/7 shelter options? Are other parts of the City being designated so that the CID is not disproportionately burdened?
Where is Africatown, our new neighbor in the designated 24/7 “enhanced shelter” proposed for the Keiro site? I belong to a community group—Wisteria Community Association—and to my knowledge, ACLT has never approached us nor other community associations by holding any kind of public meeting to introduce themselves, get to know us, or to introduce their use of Keiro. This lack of communication is very troubling.
“This project will serve single adults and will be the first shelter project operated by Africatown. The program will be a 24/7, enhanced shelter that will offer culturally responsive services, case management, housing navigation services, and behavioral health support. The shelter is expected to open October 2021,” according to The Seattle Medium.
What experience—this is Africatown’s first shelter project—does the ACLT have in shelter management?
Given the Keiro site’s proximity to Bailey-Gatzert Elementary School (a drug-free zone), will the “enhanced shelter” admit folks with ongoing substance addiction/use? I speak up as well for the users of Pratt Park—also a drug free zone—where previous injection drug use has been occurring.
Given the Keiro site’s proximity to senior housing—Kawabe Memorial House, Wisteria Terrace, and Midori Condominiums—what measures and precautions will the ACLT take to ensure their 24/7 non-congregate “enhanced shelter” does not contribute to community transmission of COVID-19, particularly in light of a new, highly infectious Delta variant?
Will the “enhanced shelter” screen for sex offenders? We have all heard of the recent sexual assault on a female employee at the King County Courthouse. The alleged offender was associated with the City Hall Park tent encampment.
The DESC Navigation Center on 12th and Weller, which the CID questioned before it was located here, has not fared well—raising the question of why the City thinks the CID is their go-to for all their failed social experiments. The mess at 12th and Jackson—trafficking in stolen merchandise, violence, and drug sales, to mention a few issues—is directly related to the Navigation Center.
Further, the City knew that permanent stable housing was not available at the time of the location of the Navigation Center, I heard a City Councilmember admit as much. So are the folks in these “enhanced shelters” in limbo, semi-permanent residents of a shelter? The Navigation Center looks terrible and has been plagued with tents on the grounds. The City’s track record with enhanced shelters is not good. Ongoing accountability and results are questionable. “Enhanced shelter” is a comical euphemism if I ever heard one.
The folks being moved out of City Hall Park and many, undoubtedly off Third Avenue near the Courthouse into enhanced shelters, are high-risk folks. I do not condemn nor judge them.
I question why the City and Africatown think that their proposed 24/7 “enhanced shelter” (it’s a done deal) for the Keiro site is a good fit in a dense urban neighborhood, with populations that are also at high-risk and therefore vulnerable.
I question the City’s pattern of making the CID its de facto repository for high-risk populations.
One other thing: if ACRS wants to be so helpful, why not address the horrible problem of graffiti and trash buildup in the CID?
Given the lack of communication on both the City’s and Africatown’s part, the City’s track record of failed social experiments, as well as its penchant for making the city’s only living immigrant community the de facto repository for high-risk populations, one might well wonder who in their mind is “vulnerable.”