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Emotions run high at homeless shelter meeting

Posted by Geeky Swedes on February 26th, 2009

A large crowd packed Calvary Lutheran Church on Thursday night to hear about a controversial plan to move an emergency shelter of 20 homeless men into the vacant facility as early as this Saturday.

Our Redeemer’s Pastor Steve Grumm, whose church merged with Calvary Lutheran last year, led the discussion with neighbors and 7 members of SHARE/WHEEL, the group that organizes the nighttime homeless shelters. At times members of the audience shouted questions, demanding why they just learned of the plan on Monday. “I apologize for the time frame that’s taking place. This is not typically how we make decisions,” Grumm said, explaining they were approached by SHARE/WHEEL a couple weeks ago. “Our problem is these people were left without a place to sleep by March 1st.”

The SHARE/WHEEL members on the stage, all homeless, explained the rules of the shelter and how they police themselves: no alcohol, no drugs and doors are locked between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m. “Each one is held accountable each and every day,” said one of the members named Nicholas. But when the SHARE/WHEEL members were asked for details about the mandatory screening process, they said it consisted of an interview and no warrant or sex offender background check. “I want accountability before you move into my neighborhood,” demanded Diane Travis, who said she’s lived across the street for the last 38 years. Another neighbor explained his wife has been running a licensed, in-home daycare for the last 15 years. “(It’s) 329 feet away from that wall,” he said, pointing to the side of church. A woman stood up and said her child attends the daycare. “I totally support getting everyone off the streets,” she said, pausing to choke back tears. “But I have to protect my child.”

SHARE/WHEEL explained they don’t have a system or the financing to conduct background checks. Jessie Israel, who said she’s on the board of the Ballard Food Bank, said they could offer them background checks for free. SHARE/WHEEL members promised to meet with her to discuss the idea. Terry Mattson, pastor of the West Seattle Church of the Nazarene, where the homeless shelter is currently housed, spoke out against mandatory warrant and sex offender checks. “We would not require that of our neighbors or each other,” he said. “It’s not an appropriate response.” Mattson explained that they had just two incidents over the last 13 months — police were called once, for a belligerent member who showed up drunk and was banned from the shelter. “Our neighbors love us,” said Mark, one of the SHARE/WHEEL members on the stage. “Why don’t you give us a chance? We can be gone in 24 hours.”

Roughly a third of the neighbors who spoke said they supported the shelter, background checks or not. “I can’t imagine a more appropriate use for an empty building to house people who don’t have a place to stay,” said Joseph Azel, who said Pastor Grumm had a “Christian obligation” to take in the homeless.

The audience offered lots of suggestions, including a 3 week delay to nail down some details about the plan. Or a 3 week trial period. In the end, Pastor Grumm promised to take a hard look at the community feedback before giving the final green light to move the shelter into the church on Saturday. “This was significant enough for us to say, hey, do we need a new tactic here?” he told My Ballard after the meeting. He said he would be meeting with SHARE/WHEEL as well as keeping in contact with neighbors over the next few days. “When we woke up this morning, we were moving in this Saturday,” said SHARE/WHEEL member Ken as he walked toward the door. “That issue is up in the air.” We’ll let you know as soon as a final decision is made.

Tags: Ballard   Share

11 reader comments so far ↓

  • 1 linda maine // Apr 15, 2009 at 4:41 pm

    Here are some free resources to begin your Washington background search.
    The official Washington state site is at http://access.wa.gov/. Their site lists all the government, agencies and department of Washington that will be of use to you in your Washington background search.
    The Attorney General’s website is at http://www.atg.wa.gov.
    Vital records are attainable through the Washington State Department of Health at http://www.doh.wa.gov.
    Contact the Washington State Department of Licensing for driving records, vehicle and boat ownership along with business licensing records. They have a website for your convenience at http://www.dol.wa.gov.
    You can get a nationwide background search at http://backgroundsearch.com . However, a background check may have little practical value, because many homeless people have criminal records. Often, they are homeless because they were in jail for extended periods, lost everything, and have nothing.

    Criminal records are important for most Washington background checks. Find them through the Washington State Patrol website at http://www.wsp.wa.gov.

  • 2 Steve // Apr 21, 2009 at 3:52 am

    The fact is that SHARE currently operates both Tent City 3 and Tent City 4. TC3 is in the Seattle area and TC4 operates on the Eastside. Tent City 4 DOES OUTSTANDING WARRANT, I.D. and sex offender checks. Tent City 3 DOES NOT. These sex offender checks are done for FREE by King County.
    SHARE is a shame and they are lying. The DON'T WANT TO DO THE CHECKS because they know that they have sex offenders in many of their shelters.

  • 3 Rob Cox // Jun 13, 2009 at 9:04 pm

    Isaiah 58:7 Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from “thine own flesh”? (Your flesh and blood family & your fellow man)

    What does God say? He says take them into your home. He means what he says. This is not some idle “maybe you should do this” idea. It is supposed to be the way we live.

    The poor that are cast out (evicted/rejected by society) are to be helped by us personally. We are not supposed to be hiding our eyes from looking into theirs. Homelessness or chemical depression is not catching., but many of us avert our eyes from them, just as many of us do to people in wheelchairs, or any other disability for that matter.

    Face them – do not fear them. They are people just like you and I.

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