Bellevue (Washington) Eastside Mens Shelter Debate 2017 - Update
This was the big day for the decision on the Men's shelter in Bellevue, Washington on April 17th 2017. The council started off with a study session hearing at 6:30 PM to have hearings from project organizers and city leadership.They discussed the current location and the feasibility of having the current shelter open to temporary shelter during the build of the new site next to Bellevue College. The council, city and project leadership discussed public safety of the site and the current procedural duties of the current shelter that CHF runs.
During this meeting homeless credentialing came up where they would potentially require ID for anyone to come into the shelter. Whether or not if this would help safety issues is up in the air. However many homeless people don't have ID during the time they are homeless as an organizer for CHF explained. There is another issue which is public safety. The community doesn't feel that a "low barrier" site is a good idea in the zone that the shelter was planned at. Extra policing was brought up during this meeting and potentially hiring more officers.
There was a dangerous idea that a few of the council members brought up which is cracking down on camping in recreational vehicles or cars.This would cause more people to go to jail, lose their modes of transportation (or housing) and create extra homeless on the streets or in the shelters. Does this sound like a good idea to you?
There was talk about using the current temporary shelter during the construction but the council felt it wasn't viable due to building structure issues. The CHF experts were trying to fight for a spot for these people to have a place during the construction.
While safety was the main concern these issues can be addressed on a more pragmatic playing field. The meeting hall was packed with residents and the study session was pretty quiet. In the new site there is talk of a potential "interrogation room" to interview those who committed crimes and potentially have a police office at the site or even just having a PIO (Elimination of an Officer position possibly) there says Chief Steve Mylett. The site next to Bellevue college was the only mentioned during the study session.
We had the Regular session after which had record city council attendance with people spilling out of the main meeting room into the annex. They had a few regular business issues first. Then after they had 5 citizens that support the shelter and 5 opposed.
Michael Brown, a member of the organization started off in support "as a young father who is excited to see the community rallying behind the need". He states "the track record of Congregations for the Homeless is Stellar". You can watch all of the comments in support of the shelter below.
In opposition we had Catherine Pitchen who lives in the neighborhood. She and some of the other people opposed are worried about excess drugs and alcohol in their community. As you view below many are asking for another site for various reasons. I haven't been able to do a full interview with the Eastside Residents coalition but I hope to be able to soon as there is a side to this that might explain why the council wants the current location. Jared Neuhaus spoke in recommendation of using the ST3 land where the temporary shelter was located last year. Sound transit has 3 parcels of excess land after the projects. In the ST3 Package the state legislature required Sound Transit to donate excess land to affordable housing.
John Carlson spoke in support of the council and Steve Roberts of CHF for working to help the homeless. While he is not in support of the current location he states "it's the right thing in the wrong place". He states this is due to improper land use regulations. He is proposing a location near Bell-Red. The speakers in opposition (Mostly location) are posted below.
John Stokes (Bellevue Mayor) continued to push the current location of this site along with the council which temporarily angered residents. He went back on the proposal by himself and the council. In the proposal they deleted the use of a safe injection site at the location. Council member Kevin Wallace spoke out in opposition of the current proposal. He asked for the current temporary structure to continue to house the current homeless. Also questioned the mayor and the rest of the council on the current proposed location of the Low Barrier Shelter by Bellevue College and asked for the council to do a study on 3 sites that had been given in alternative to the proposed.
The community after yelling and shouting at the mayor gathered in support as the Mayor and council agreed to continue to study these other sites. This meeting ended late after an extension with 3 sites to look at after a 4- 3 council vote to move forward. The Council is looking at the project being decided in the next few months. While the project completion date is looking out towards 2023.
While the issue to look at going forward should be the interaction between the city, police and the homeless on the streets. I came up on a scene on 05/01/17 on Bellevue Way NE SB of a cop pinning a homeless person to the ground and subduing him. While I am not sure what the altercation was due to, there is notice that the city is cracking down on people who stay on the street. There is footage of the council discussing public safety below.
Alex Love is an independent journalist from Lynnwood, WA / Phoenix, AZ. He is a community servant and activist who also runs a non profit called Love 4 Liberty.