William Charles Tinker wtinker@metrocast.net
Sun, 23 Oct 2005 07:34:48 -0400

October 22, 2005

Bare-bones surplus building beats sleeping under freeway

By Lynda V. Mapes
Seattle Times staff reporter

It may not sound like much - four bare rooms, no bathrooms, no kitchen or 
even hot water. But when you have been sleeping under a freeway overpass, it 
seems grand indeed.
"Pretty awesome," said Greg Davis, 43, who is about to change his digs from 
the I-5 ramp at Seventh and Cherry to temporary shelter at the old INS 
building near the International District.
The General Services Administration (GSA) announced yesterday it would allow 
homeless people living at the freeway ramp to take shelter in four rooms in 
the building from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m.
Portable toilets will be put in the parking lot, and there is a sink in the 
basement. The building also has electricity.
The GSA issued a 30-day license to use the building to Seattle Housing & 
Resource Effort, or SHARE, to operate the shelter at 815 Airport Way S.
The currently vacant building is managed by GSA and has been declared 
surplus property. The federal government wants to rid itself of the 
building, a process that could take several months.
Meanwhile, SHARE can use the building to provide lodging for up to 40 people 
who had been sleeping under the overpass. SHARE can renew the license to 
operate the shelter if the building is still vacant.
Built in 1932, the U.S. Immigration Station and Assay Office was placed on 
the National Register of Historic Places in 1979. The building has been 
vacant since January.
Shelter activists staged a demonstration at the building in August to 
protest people going homeless in the shadow of empty buildings.
Some of the demonstrators were from the ranks of about 50 men and women who 
have been sleeping under the freeway overpass through Safe Haven, a shelter 
program operated by SHARE, an organization of homeless people dedicated to 
solving homelessness.
Davis, who has been sleeping outside for more than 100 nights, says he looks 
forward to Monday, when the keys to the INS building will be handed over to 
"I think it's great. When you don't have anything as simple as a room with a 
roof, we are actually counting the hours."

Lynda V. Mapes: 206-464-2736 or lmapes@seattletimes.com