[Hpn] Proposed homeless shelter irks Yesler residents~Nimbyism At Work
William Charles Tinker
Wed, 3 Nov 2004 07:59:20 -0500
Proposed homeless shelter irks Yesler residents
November 3, 2004
By Stuart Eskenazi
Seattle Times staff reporter
JOHN LOK / THE SEATTLE TIMES Herold Eby, president of Yesler Terrace
Community Council, which represents the project's 1,125 residents, opposes
the city of Seattle's plan to place an overnight homeless shelter in the
housing project's gymnasium. Eby said that some residents are worried that
the shelter would compromise their safety. E-mail this article Print this
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Residents of Seattle's Yesler Terrace housing project are opposing the
city's plan to locate an overnight homeless shelter in their community this
Some have lived on the street themselves and are sensitive to homelessness,
said Herold Eby, president of the Yesler Terrace Community Council, which
represents the project's 1,125 residents.
"It's kind of a sticky issue for us," he said. "We want homeless people to
have a place to sleep in the winter, but our first concern is the safety and
security of our residents."
After learning that the city is siting a severe-weather shelter at the
housing project's gymnasium, the resident council voted against it, a
symbolic gesture as the city is moving forward with its plan.
The vote came during a meeting earlier this fall, when officials from the
city and the Seattle Housing Authority, which runs Yesler Terrace, briefed
residents on shelter operations. Eby said the council's vote reflects a
feeling by residents that a decision was made without regard to their
"Discussion should begin before a decision is made, not after," said Eby, a
resident since 1987.
But Tom Tierney, executive director of the housing authority, said if
surrounding neighborhoods were given veto power over homeless shelters, "we
would never be able to locate these facilities."
Tierney added that if the city had gone along with the desires of the
neighborhood surrounding Yesler Terrace 65 years ago, the housing project
itself never would have been built.
"In my mind, it's wrong and against our mission of serving the poor to turn
away homeless people on a cold night from sleeping in an empty public
facility," he said. "Our own residents are really only a check or two away
from being homeless themselves."
The housing authority is providing the shelter at no cost to the city. To
be run by the Salvation Army, it would house up to 75 people for about 60
nights when winter weather is especially severe. It would be at Yesler
Terrace this winter only.
The city selected the Yesler Terrace gym after considering about 20 other
locations, including the South Lake Union Armory that hosted it the past two
Al Poole, the city's manager for survival services, said homeless people
who check into overnight shelters are not prescreened, though rules are in
effect that tend to deter troublemakers. Security fears, though
understandable, exceed actual security threats, he said.
But Eby said there is no denying that some overnight shelter users are drug
addicts or have criminal backgrounds.
About one-third of the people who live at Yesler Terrace are under 18, and
Eby said parents don't want the homeless shelter letting out when they are
putting their children on school buses. They also worry about loitering
before the shelter opens at 10 p.m. and after it closes at 6:30 a.m. Elderly
and disabled residents feel especially vulnerable, he said.
"A lot of our people are uptight about the shelter because they have been
victims of crime themselves," Eby said.
Patricia McInturff, director of the city's Human Services Department that
sited the shelter, said the concerns are the same as those in other
neighborhoods where homeless shelters have been placed.
"Their fears are just like everyone else's fears," she said. And while
their concerns must be respected, "we also want the people who go to the
shelter to not be disliked, for there to be some dignity in their lives as
Joe Martin, a downtown social worker who works with homeless people, said
he sensed Yesler Terrace residents feel the shelter is being dumped on them
because they are poor.
"A number of the residents have made it clear that they are sympathetic to
the homeless, but they feel put upon because of their economic status," he
said. "Is that understandable? Yes, because that kind of thing happens all
Martin predicted the shelter can co-exist with the community if security
concerns are addressed. "When you are a low-income person, life is hard
enough without having something new to worry about."
Eby said the Yesler Terrace vote may also illustrate residents' overall
anxiety about housing-authority plans to redevelop the community. One option
would transform it into a mixed-income neighborhood of subsidized housing
and market-rate homes.
The housing authority has promised to include residents in the planning
process. But Eby said a perceived disregard for their concerns over the
shelter issue intensifies suspicion that the housing authority will
redevelop Yesler Terrace however it wants.
Stuart Eskenazi: 206-464-2293 or firstname.lastname@example.org