Emotions run high at homeless shelter meeting

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.

Woman’s body discovered at Golden Gardens

Updated: A woman walking her dog at Golden Gardens Park Thursday morning discovered a body face down the sand at Meadow Point, Seattle Police say. Detectives first treated the death as suspicious, but the medical examiner’s office has since ruled it a suicide. She was a 34-year-old woman.

Snow snarls morning commute

9 a.m. update: About an inch of snow fell between 4 and 6 a.m., delaying Seattle Public Schools by two hours and throwing a wrench into the morning commute. Most of Ballard’s roadways remain clear, but My Ballard readers reported numerous delays with Metro buses in the neighborhood.

“The 46 never showed up and the 44 didn’t show up at 28th & Market for the time that I waited,” said Aech. “As we passed the stop at Ballard & Market, a 17 that was completely full was pulling away, leaving 30+ people at the stop.” (See Metro’s weather delays.) A SDOT plow was spotted on 15th Ave., but there was little snow to plow. Most of SDOT’s crews focused on trouble spots like the Viaduct and West Seattle Bridge. And commuters heading to the Eastside (including Microsoft’s Connector buses) were hit with long backups and delays.

My Ballard readers also reported a loud bang and a power outage at 6:15 a.m. “I called City Light’s emergency number and he indicated that several neighbors on NW 64th have reported the same thing,” wrote Sharon in an email at 6:45 a.m. “Everyone west of us (we’re between 15th and 17th) that we can see is out, but our neighbor directly east seems to have power.” Power appears to have been restored. Have anything to report? Please post below…

Sign goes up at O’Shan Sushi

Ballard’s newest sushi restaurant is one step closer to opening.

Brown paper still covers the windows, but the sign is now up at O’Shan Sushi on 24th Ave NW. This will be the third sushi restaurant to open in Ballard since September. Shiku opened first along Ballard Ave, followed by Moshi Moshi which opened earlier this month. O’Shan Sushi replaces Austin Cantina, which closed in January. (Thanks GB for the tip!)

Statues stolen from Ballard front yards

In last week’s batch of police reports, we discovered two cases of stolen lawn statues in Ballard. And this week, My Ballard reader sjblackford says someone stole a concrete gargoyle waterspout named “Spewie” (pictured) from the end of their driveway on 8th Ave. “It was attached very securely and ‘permanently,'” she said in an email. “They must have worked really hard at it.” If you have seen Spewie, she asks that you please respond to her forum post.

Ballard High School flag at half-staff

My Ballard reader MGHart emailed us wondering why the Ballard High School flag is currently flying at half staff. We called the school and found out the Governor has ordered all state agencies to lower their flags today to honor a state worker who died last Thursday. Erik Anderson was an instructor at Spokane Community College. According to KXLY in Spokane, he died during a bowling class last week as he tried to remove a stuck pin in one of the lanes.

Thousands of streetlights await repair

We noticed on a drive around Ballard the other night that dozens of streetlights are burned out, and today our fellow neighborhood news site West Seattle Blog reports that Seattle City Light has a huge backlog of 3,500 burned out lights across the city. “There are many more trouble streetlights reported this time of year, and the current estimated turn-around time for repair is 32 working days,” said City Light’s Mike Eagan. To report a burned-out light, use this online form or call 206-684-7056.