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Green Lake residents express concerns over homeless shelter

What do you think? (31 Comments) July 15, 2010 at 9:30AM

There was a tense community meeting last night (Wednesday, July 14, 2010) at Green Lake’s Bethany Lutheran Church (7400 Woodlawn Ave NE).

Members of the church congregation and residents of the surrounding neighborhood came together to hear from eight men representing SHARE (Seattle Housing and Resource Effort).  SHARE plans to establish a homeless shelter for twenty homeless men at the church, beginning tonight.

SHARE info meeting

The meeting began with an introduction from Pastor Dennis Andersen, who discussed the guiding principles of the Lutheran faith and the church’s mission to help those in need.  He explained that the decision to host the shelter at the church came after “considerable inquiry over a series of months,” during which the congregation examined both practical and spiritual matters.

Pastor Andersen acknowledged that the public inquiry period had been delayed until the night before the shelter’s opening.  He explained that this was done at SHARE’s request.  He also emphasized that the shelter was opening on a trial basis.  After one month, the church plans to assess the success of the program.

Representatives from SHARE then provided information about the group’s history, structure, and goals.   First to speak was Lantz Rowland, who introduced himself and stated that he had been involved in SHARE “on and off since the late ’90s.”  Before he was able to continue the presentation, a woman in the audience loudly demanded to be able to ask a question.  Rowland advised that there would be time following the presentation for questions.  The woman persisted, demanding to be able to ask a question and requesting that Rowland explain why he had been “in and out of homelessness” for so many years.  Rowland offered to answer questions about his personal situation after the meeting and continued with his planned presentation.

Rowland explained that while SHARE has a small number of staff who function as organizers, the fifteen SHARE shelters across the city are managed exclusively by the people staying in the shelters.  SHARE, Rowland said, is not a social service organization.  It is a self-help group.

Rowland then gave the floor to Roger, another SHARE representative.  Roger described why homeless people need shelters, explaining that the primary need is for safety.

The mechanics of how a SHARE shelter is run were also reviewed.  The self-managed shelters are run as a democracy by the people living in it.  They are not walk-in shelters; screening is done off-site.   The people living in the shelter arrive as a group at 9:30 p.m. and immediately enter the shelter.  They are not permitted to leave the shelter until morning, when they must leave the neighborhood.  They must keep the shelter clean, and they provide extra security for the shelter host.  If a member of the shelter breaks a rule he will be removed from the shelter immediately.

A question period then followed.  While three of the Green Lake residents in attendance expressed support for the shelter, citing that they believe that the increased security provided by SHARE participants would create a safer neighborhood, several neighbors of the church voiced concerns.

There were many questions about the screening process that SHARE uses.  Concern was expressed about the presence of a sex offender at a SHARE shelter in Ballard last year.  SHARE representatives responded that they “do no knowingly screen in sex offenders,” and that if an individual does not register as a sex offender, SHARE is unable to screen him out.

There were also several complaints about the neighborhood notification process, which did not include a long or involved consultation of the church’s residential neighbors.  The process was called “insulting” by one Green Lake resident in attendance, a comment which garnered loud agreement.  Another resident said that he felt as though the shelter was being “shoved down our throats.”  A third said that it was a “matter of trust, right off the bat,” and a fourth felt that the notice SHARE provided, which stated the shelter was simply a “proposed shelter,” was “disingenuous.”

The SHARE representatives responded to the concerns raised about the neighborhood notification process by explaining that SHARE was only providing information; they do not have to justify the existence of the shelter or ask permission of the neighborhood.  To this, a member of the audience answered: “You haven’t asked permission of the people who bought houses here!”

The tension in the room rose as the woman who interrupted Rowland’s initial presentation continued to interrupt both SHARE representatives and others with her own questions and comments.  At several points she was advised by Pastor Andersen that if she continued her inappropriate behavior, she would be asked to leave.

Meanwhile, other concerns were raised, including a series of questions about permitting.  One man in attendance had called the City of Seattle Department of Planning and Development earlier that day.  He reported that he had learned that the shelter did not conform to zoning regulations.  Pastor Lisa Anthony of the Green Lake United Methodist Church explained that churches are not subject to zoning regulations when they are performing their spiritual ministry, including outreach to the poor.

The conversation then moved to a discussion the long-term goals of SHARE and the church. The shelter will be at the church for 30 days on a provisional basis.  After the pilot period is over, the church and SHARE will assess whether they wish to continue on a permanent basis.  While the shelter is starting with 20 men, it may in time grow, although it will not grow in size beyond 30 men.

Those in attendance also heard from other Seattle pastors who have prior experience with SHARE shelters, including the pastors of Trinity United Methodist Church in Ballard and Woodland Park United Methodist Church in Phinney Ridge.  Both reported positive experiences with SHARE.

The meeting concluded with an assurance from both SHARE and Pastor Andersen that questions from the community are welcomed and encouraged.  You can reach Bethany Lutheran Church at 206 523 4454 and the SHARE offices at 206 448 7889.

31 Responses to “Green Lake residents express concerns over homeless shelter”

  1. Ben Kordash says:

    thanks for the write up , and all while juggling a hungry baby!

  2. mygreenlake says:

    Thanks, Ben! Actually, I want to apologize for the disruptions! She's usually very mellow, but was very fussy last night…! -amy

  3. Ballardite says:

    Aren't you glad that people who attend church in your neighborhood get to choose this without consulting or getting approval from those that pay own homes there? That's what happened here in Ballard. Watch out, Green Lake and Ravenna – you're next. Enjoy the lack of screening and resident autonomy while your kids play in the front yard. They forced it down our throats in Ballard. I do not share your religion. I should not be subjected to the congregation's decisions as they drive home to other neighborhoods with a smile that they've “done something good”. You've haven't. You fixed one problem (for twelve people) by causing another (for many more than that).

  4. Ben Kordash says:

    thanks for the write up , and all while juggling a hungry baby!

  5. mygreenlake says:

    Thanks, Ben! Actually, I want to apologize for the disruptions! She's usually very mellow, but was very fussy last night…! -amy

  6. Ballardite says:

    Aren't you glad that people who attend church in your neighborhood get to choose this without consulting or getting approval from those that pay own homes there? That's what happened here in Ballard. Watch out, Green Lake and Ravenna – you're next. Enjoy the lack of screening and resident autonomy while your kids play in the front yard. They forced it down our throats in Ballard. I do not share your religion. I should not be subjected to the congregation's decisions as they drive home to other neighborhoods with a smile that they've “done something good”. You've haven't. You fixed one problem (for twelve people) by causing another (for many more than that).

  7. a concerned neighbor says:

    This was a great summary of the meeting. I'm a neighbor and I think our concerns are focused around three areas: one, the lack of proactive sex offender screening–six children under age 11 live within 50 yards of this shelter. The SHARE staff don't have a program to do this other than asking residents if they are sex offenders, and waiting for DOC to contact them. Two, the church/SHARE did not notify any neighbors about the shelter until right before it opened–it's just not neighborly. And three, the lack of enforcement to make sure that residents leave the area during the day. Since there are already so many people who live in the public park just a block away, one would logically assume that this is where the homeless residents without employment will end up. I think it's important to assume good will on everyone's part and maintain civility, but as neighbors we would sure appreciate having our concerns addressed directly.

  8. EnduroDriver says:

    I find it pretty amazing this new breed of clergy that seem to have a total disregard for the communities they supposedly serve and consider themselves a part of. If communities are powerless to influence churches actions that directly impact the neighborhood then maybe communities should do everything in their power to prevent churches from being established in the first place.

    I would recommend that everyone read up on what transpired in Ballard last year at myballard.com. Including the level 3 sex offender found living in the shelter, a convicted child molester I might add.

  9. Thank you for a very well written, balanced story, Amy.

    It is unfortunate that the Church and SHARE scheduled this meeting at the same time as the Green Lake Community Council Meeting and gave so little notice that it was too late for us to cancel/reschedule our meeting to attend theirs. One long-time GLCC board member pronounced this lack of coordination and scheduling startagey as, “totally insulting”. I found it to be more of a huge error than an intentional insult. At least, I hope it was an error.

    The shelter is there now, whether we like it, or not. Many eyes and ears (and telescopes and microscopes?) will be focussed on this project immediately and constantly.

    Our next GLCC meeting is September 8 (we meet on the second Weds of odd-numbered months) and this will be an agenda item.

    The recent history of GLCC has included the policy that the Council does not take positions on specific issues. We are changing that. Unfortunately, due to the scheduling strategy of the church and SHARE, we are not able to take a position on this issue before September 8. By then, we should all know much more.

    In the mean time, you can reach the hosting church and SHARE at the numbers in the story.

  10. supportive resident says:

    I am a bit disappointed in residents. I am a also resident of the neighborhood who pays for my home. I walk by that church on an almost daily basis, although I do not attend. I am glad that I live in a neighborhood that now houses such a program. I would never want any child to fall victim to a sex offender. However, I do want my children exposed to people from all walks of life. I want my children to live in a neighborhood that comes together to support individuals and groups who need assistance in getting their basic needs met. I am ashamed that so many Seattle residents claim to support social and humanitarian causes, but then turn around and scream, “Not in my backyard!” at the same time. I beg of you to have some compassion for people that are struggling with issues that many of us cannot even comprehend. I do not intend to insult your intelligence or you life experiences here. I would, however, like to point out that the vast majority of people living in this neighborhood are extremely privileged and have always been extremely privileged, myself included. Programs like SHARE are absolutely necessary and they need to be in neighborhoods that are safe for the clients too.

  11. EnduroDriver says:

    I’m sure the SHARE meeting was not scheduled over the GLCC meeting on purpose but it’s very clear that the meeting was intentionally scheduled in such a way to discourage participation from the community.

  12. EnduroDriver says:

    I agree with you to a point but looking back at the Ballard incident for reference the two biggest problems were:

    1) The church had no intention of working with the community at any point and never addressed any of their concerns until a level 3 sex offender was found to have been staying the shelter. Based on the tone of last night’s meeting and how it was schedule it is very apparent that this pastor has the same blatant disregard for the communities concerns and is creating an adversarial environment.
    2) Although there were many NIMBYs in the Ballard case there were plenty of folks that simply wanted SHARE to conduct background checks on those staying in the shelter that the police will perform free of charge. SHARE refused stating it was un-American to do so even though they were conducting the background checks at another SHARE site. Just about anyone who has gotten a new job in the past few years has had a background check run on them, did that feel un-American?

  13. Ben Kordash says:

    “…And three, the lack of enforcement to make sure that residents leave the area during the day” —>While this is a valid concern, I'm almost 100% sure if any of the shelter residents were walking around the neighborhood during the day, you would not be able to tell we were homeless and living in the shelter. We wear clean clothes. For the most part, we're clean cut gentlemen. I think you have the image in your head of a dirty scraggly old man with a long beard carrying around a huge backpack with a bedroll tied on to the bottom drinking a beercan out of a brown bag. Today I'm wearing dockers and a blue oxford shirt with loafers.. Due to the stigma attatched to homelessness, this is the sad reality of the situation. I actually hang out in the green lake park quite regularly, though this will not be an option for me anymore because of the public outcry…and frankly , its pretty discouraging.

  14. Ben Kordash says:

    Instead of looking at this ( the whole ballard thing) in such a negative light, why not take the situation as an example to learn from? What can we do different this time? Please, tell me! We'll take any input seriously. I read this website every day, i read every comment, and i try to respond to every one if i have an answer ( i'll be staying in the shelter until i find perm. housing)

  15. I photographed a woman who has lived on the street for thirty years over a long period of time and met many people like those in the church shelter. The fact is that giving shelter to those in need was once a much more common practice in every day society than it is today. We no longer as a society have seem to grasp of what it means to be poor and in need. People without shelter are all around us all the time, and we don't often know who they are. I am glad my neighborhood has shown this kind of compassion. No one will ever agree on anything. It is heartening to see a church acting like one for a change and taking leadership in the area of a Christian's most sacred duty: to love thy neighbor as thyself.

  16. David says:

    “I do want my children exposed to people from all walks of life. “

    That's great you're willing to sacrifice your kids to the kind of level 3 (the most dangerous) child rapist SHARE housed in Ballard. You're truly compassionate.

  17. LBB says:

    I think the main difference between what happened in Ballard and what's happening here is that the Greenlake site is an active church (not an empty building like Our Redeemer's) so that bodes well for the neighborhood as the congregation will probably be more involved and present. The Ballard issues sprang from prior issues with feeding programs at that site. I believe that is where the majority of the outrage came from – it was more of the straw that broke the camel's back for the neighborhood even though feeding programs bring more visible problems than a shelter. There is a shelter (still running) just a few blocks away from the Our Redeemers site and it has had minimal issues (it's a working church). Hopefully, the Greenlake site will work out as well. Personally, I still think SHARE should agree to check against the sex offender list (as a neighbor of Our Redeemers that is all I asked for). They are required to do it for some of their sites on the East side so I am still not sure why they won't do it in Seattle. It seems like a small thing that would reduce the majority of the controversy.

  18. Greenlake resident says:

    i went to the meeting – my biggest disappointment was in the pastor and his large contingent of supporters from other churches and share representatives that he recruited in for this meeting. I felt they were arrogant, and unyielding – and were really not there to listen to any neighborhood concerns – since this is already a done deal. They all had ready pat answers to any concerns brought up. It came across to me loud and clear that they dont care what the neighbors concerns were – this meeting was solely done as a “courtesy”. when the meeting was all said and done the neighbors walked to their homes across the street as the pastor and his supporters got in their cars and drove to their homes outside the Greenlake neighborhood.

  19. Rondi says:

    Ah yes, it sounds familiar. The pastor drives himself and his flock home, leaving the neighbors to deal with the homeless shelter. Over in Ballard, where I live, the churches are now looking at offering parking to the transients in cars and/or motorhomes. Again, the congregation decides and they go home, leaving the neighbors to deal with the problems. Congregations, church members, please, please, be as charitable to the neighbors of the church property as you are to the homeless — you are the NIMBY's — because you force care of the homeless on people in other neighborhoods and not the one you reside in.

  20. Ballardite says:

    Thank you for writing this. As a nearby resident to the Ballard, I didn't like the fact their was a sex offender there, but I also realize that there were 11 other sex offenders there, some living near to Whitman MS and Salmon Bay Elementary. But I believe that didn't give my the right to yell “NIMBY!” and force it out, as what happened. All citizens have, IMO, a right to treat all other citizens with basic rights, including a right to live someplace, even if we don't like them. Especially when we're privileged enough to own our own homes and live in an expensive neighborhood like Ballard or Green Lake.

  21. David says:

    No, majority of the outrage in Ballard was from the convicted Level 3 child rapist who lived there without registering for 2 months and SHARE did nothing about it until neighbors found out. SHARE knowingly hid him there until a neighbor outed the rapist.

  22. a concerned neighbor says:

    I wonder if you could give a little background about the kind of background check against the sex offender list that SHARE is doing on the east side. When a lady asked about this at the Wednesday night meeting, she was told that “we ask them if they're sex offenders” and that is the sum total of their screening. They said when the DOC reaches out to them that they will assist in locating that person but there is no proactive watch list or anything like that. What do they do on the east side that is different? I live in the neighborhood and within the last 3 years a huge number of families have moved in with young children, living within a block or less of the church so I'm concerned about this. Thanks.

  23. Greenlake resident says:

    The only reason the Ballard shutdown situation was discussed at this meeting was because after the pastor and his supporters spoke in nothing but glowing terms about the wonderful success rates of other Share programs, a concerned neighbor raised his hand and asked – what about Ballard. You would think something as serious as this would have been addressed in the beginning by the pastor. But then again, I guess this isnt a serious issue for the pastor or his many supporters from other churches that were there – because they get in their cars and drive to their homes far away from this neighborhood – and leave the neighbors to deal with it. As one of his supporters said if we had wanted to find out more about this proposed Share program perhaps we should attend this church. Let me say this is one neighbor who especially after this meeting and how they operate I am happy to say I have no desire to attend this church. Another question I have is – I know they arrive as a group – but I am concerned once they leave the church in the morning – they are free to stay in the neighborhood – why are they not bussed back as a group downtown – I dont feel comfortable knowing that another large group of homeless people are in the neighborhood – we already have a large group of homeless already – this is just creating a bigger problem for us – the people that actually live here.

  24. resident says:

    “I would never want any child to fall victim to a sex offender.”

    Never. Please be kind. Set an example to your own children.

  25. Leilalilica says:

    To quote the person who commented right before me…”I know they arrive as a group – but I am concerned once they leave the church in the morning – they are free to stay in the neighborhood – why are they not bussed back as a group downtown.” This point is leaving me with a big question. Is it the SAME group of men every night that are bussed to the church? If so, when they leave in the morning, do they then have to find their way back to wherever the vehicle that drives them to the church in the evening is located? Or is it a different group of men each time? How do they arrive as a group? By car? Van? They have a meetup somewhere and walk? It really makes no sense that they would arrive as a group and then leave on their own accord in the morning.

  26. EnduroDriver says:

    Ann, you bring up a perfect example of the type of deserving people that a program like this should help and I think the neighborhood would really get behind that. St Johns has been hosting an overnight womens shelter for years. Its been a great program with no trouble and integrates well into the community. That being said habitual violent criminals and sex offenders need to be handled differently and I don't think anyone in the neighborhood signed up for that when they bought their house. The biggest problem with SHARE is they won't do free background checks, there are plenty of homeless people out there without criminal records that the church could help.

  27. Matt Raudsep says:

    Yes, I was very disappointed to hear the news of the shelter's opening one day before the event. So I went to great lengths to go to the meeting. We own one of the closest houses to the shelter..a 100 year old 3 story craftsman home that we have put a lot of time and effort into refurbishing the last 6 years. My house is co-owned by my life partner who survived the Khmer Rouge Holocaust, who was forced out of his home at age 8 due to the War in Cambodia and forced to live in a labor camp for 4 years..Then when he was freed after the war with his family he started a trading business when he was 13 to save up enough gold to hire a guide to take him across the Cambodian border into a Thai refugee camp. Every day he burried his gold bag in his hut, which he lived off of for the following five years waiting for an outcome to leave the war ravaged area. He lived there for 5 years waiting to either go to France or America. He was offered both after 5 years. He decided to come to America because of a picture he saw in the refugee camp's library of an astronaut putting an American flag on the moon. He thought, “Well, that is the country I want to go to and be a part of.”He came to America in 1988, and he became a US Citizen in 1995. He was so proud. He owns 50% of the house across the street from this homeless shelter at Green Lake (that we purchased 50% jointly for almost a quarter million dollars in 2004), aas well as other properties. While he does not have a GED, or specialized education, he has developed skills and has worked very hard getting up early in the morning and working late at night, so he can save money and send money back to support other people in his family that are less fortunate. He came to this country with little more than the shirt on his back… in just a few more years than one of the SHARE participants has been living in these shelters, my good friend who I will keep nameless, has been able to do so much for several different communities. He has also been sending money to his family to support his several brothers and sisters and 32 neices and nephews, who truly do not live in much of an economy, his entire family being back in Cambodia.

    The folks represented by SHARE, to our amazement, were born in the USA, and afforded the same public education as the rest. We are always helpful and sorry for people when they go through tragedy, but at the meeting it was asked, “Excuse me sir, but why have you been in and out of share for 12 years?” The pastor said it was inappropriate and that it was none of her business to the questioner. I was thinking the same question loud and clear. And the pastor wanted to throw her out of the meeting…Sitting in the front row of the meeting as one of the neighbors (the person I described above) is someone that came to this country with nothing but the shirt on his back and in just a few years more than the gentleman speaking on behalf of SHARE on stage, he has accumulated houses and been able to support an entire clan back home. He doesnt' have a GED, or any formal education, yet he has not been scared to get his hands dirty, work hard, save money and be a contributing member of the community. Is this country turning into a place of just doing handouts? This is just half of our household in what we do to help. I do not approve of the location of the homeless shelter near one of the largest playgrounds in Seattle. I also do not appreciate the lack of disclosure, letting us know as direct and immediate neighbors across the street that now we will have 20 new people living there. We don't believe that they will use the bus passes to leave Green Lake in the morning when they are not working. I find this to be more burden to put on us…Is it because we have chosen to work hard, and get up at 3 a.m. or work all night for our jobs, that we should be imposed on for our generosity for those people that have not bothered to take the time to learn skills over a 12 year period. I can understand a temporary situation. Section 8 exists and disability programs exist in Seattle. Many organizations such as Samaritan House (all across the USA) have programs to help people get into responsible living situations, to help people stay sober and stay off the streets as well. We understand difficult situations… But God helps those that help themselves, and for long timers in this program, maybe its time to pull yourself up by the bootstraps and take a job, find a roommate, and realize that as hard as your predicament has been, there are others out there who have SURVIVED and have made it work for themselves…survived things that makes the stories I heard at the meeting seem ridiculous…. Generalizations about our community not caring enough for the poor is pathetic. It is another attempt to subjugate us with more taxes, impositions, and lower valued neighborhoods. It is so easy for a church these days to take down a neighborhood by believing they have carte blanche to do whatever they want with their property, with little disregard for the immediate neighbors. We were told at the meeting that we should join the church so that we would know what was going on there. We are both Buddhists, and strong believers in people helping themselves as well as helping others. I did not like the tone at the meeting with the leadership making an assumption from the get-go that the person who wanted to know a very important and obvious question as to “why was the person in and out of SHARE for 12 years?” an inappropriate question…It was a core piece of information that gave us a clue as to what SHARE is about..not helping people move on, but instead of just housing folks that choose not to take a job when needed. There is no excuse, no one to blame, but themselves…and this church is part of the same dysfunctional problem that says “Yes” to being able to live like this. As Americans and registered voters, I do have a voice. It's not the Vatican across the street from my house, it's own little country. It's a church with limited zoning restrictions, and is under the same enforcement as the rest of the city. I have never had a problem with Bethany Lutheran until now. This program does little to help the homeless people already at the lake, as these are all new folks that are bussed in from downtown. Thank you so much Pastor Dennis.

    Matt Raudsep

  28. Val says:

    Matt,

    Your comment was very appropriate and well written. One week ago, Tent city 4 moved across the street from me to where it is litteraly 150 feet from my doorstep. The points made are the very same ones I have thought of but you very succinctly stated the sober message.

    In spite of my opposition I made a committement to assist those in the camp in the most constructive way. My hope is to find those folks who want the help are willing to earn their way to a productive life. To have people come by day after day to bring them food and provide a free sleeping area and expect them to do nothing in return is counter intuitive and counter productive. I can only hope that the church will allow my type of help with these conditions. I suspect though this will be a turned away.

    Thank you again for your commentary. I am certainly going to share this with my neighbors and the church community.

  29. M Raudsep says:

    Thank you Val…We very much appreciate your kind words. Please share what I wrote. In kindness, Matt Raudsep

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