[Hpn] City finds fault with shelters
Fri, 15 Jun 2001 10:44:21 -0700
Friday, June 15, 2001, 12:00 a.m. Pacific
City finds fault with shelters
By Beth Kaiman
Seattle Times staff reporter
The group that sponsors Seattle's tent city for the homeless often has
dozens of empty beds in its city-funded shelters and bars people from
sleeping there if they don't take part in advocacy efforts, according to a
city report issued yesterday.
SHARE, which insists the city does not fund enough shelter space, is asking
the city for extra money to compensate for private donations that have
shifted from shelter operations to tent city, according to the report.
The report by Seattle's Human Services Department faults SHARE (Seattle
Housing and Resource Effort) on a number of fronts, questioning spending
decisions and management structure at the organization that, with few paid
workers, relies mostly on homeless volunteers to run 13 shelters with about
"The top concern is ensuring that people are treated fairly regardless of
political activity," said Alan Painter, director of community services in
the Human Services Department.
The report recommends changes but does not threaten to end city funding.
Relations between SHARE and the city have been strained since the group
began sponsoring tent city in March 2000.
City officials, including Mayor Paul Schell, take pride in having doubled
spending on homeless programs since 1996. SHARE, meanwhile, uses tent city
not only as a place for shelter but as a way to criticize the Schell
administration for not doing more.
SHARE sees the report as payback. Anitra Freeman, president of SHARE's board
of directors, said the city is distorting the numbers. "It makes a seemingly
legitimate attack on tent city," she said.
The report, said Painter, is not political. He said the information was
based on interviews with shelter residents and church members involved with
For years, SHARE and the city have been partners in providing shelter in
church basements and other buildings. The city this year is giving $173,381
to SHARE for shelter operations with the understanding that no city money go
toward tent city, which it considers an illegal land use.
Tent city, now at Lake City Christian Church, is home to about 100 people.
The report does not directly accuse SHARE of using city money on tent city.
But it does raise questions, for example, about dramatic increases in the
bills for dumping garbage - an increase seen after tent city opened.
Freeman rejects any insinuation that tent-city trash is being hauled to the
shelters and put on the city's tab.
"We've been scrupulous," she said, and suggested that garbage bills from one
of the shelters did go up sharply and that materials from construction work
there may have gone into the trash.
More troubling for the city is the shift of private donations away from
SHARE shelters to tent city. That shift has contributed to a shortfall in
the shelter operation, and SHARE officials say the shelters could shut down
July 1 unless the city comes through with $70,000.
Painter said the city had contacted United Way to try to help SHARE's
Traditionally, SHARE has raised $20,000 to $30,000 a year. Last year, the
group collected $5,657 for the shelters and $32,816 for tent city, with
about $15,000 specifically designated by donors for tent city, according to
Freeman was unrepentant: "A majority of the people in Seattle believe as we
do that tent city is shelter and tent city is legitimate."
Painter contends that SHARE should have made sure it could afford its basic
operation before starting tent city.
According to Painter, shelter residents said people have been barred for
failing to take part in SHARE's political activities.
SHARE requires residents to do administrative tasks or other chores. Freeman
said residents could choose political or nonpolitical activities.
SHARE's first request for more money came in February. Painter said the
study released yesterday was prompted by that request and by figures last
fall showing more empty beds at SHARE than at most shelters.
The report addresses the issue of empty beds, noting that SHARE allows
residents to reserve beds for long stretches and stay out of the shelter for
two nights a week. Those beds are not filled during those nights.
SHARE has not broken its contract with the city and is on course to meet the
negotiated number of "bed nights" the city funded, Painter says. But he said
the city might want to negotiate its next contract by specifying that a
certain percentage of beds be filled.
Copyright © 2001 The Seattle Times Company
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