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Urban Rest Stop comes under fire

Posted by Geeky Swedes on October 28th, 2010

The people behind a proposed low income housing development in Ballard quickly lost control of a community meeting Wednesday night as residents demanded answers about plans to bring an Urban Rest Stop to the neighborhood. Instead of starting with a formal presentation on the design of the building, organizers were forced to scrap their agenda to answer a barrage of questions from about three dozen concerned neighbors.

“Is this a done deal or can we fight it,” said one resident.

Urban Rest Stop program manager Ronni Gilboa speaks to the crowd

The Urban Rest Stop, which would be on street level of the building at 2014 NW 57th Street, is part of the project proposed by the Low Income Housing Institute. The building’s upper floors would be home to up to 60 units of low income housing, with 20 percent set aside for the homeless.  Wednesday night, we learned the specifics of what the Urban Rest Stop portion of the facility would include:

  • Operating hours of 6am to 2pm (Mon-Fri only)
  • 75 to 100 people expected each day
  • 5 shower rooms
  • Laundry area
  • Health room

Ronni Gilboa, the program manager for the downtown Urban Rest Stop, explained that the proposed facility in Ballard would basically be a place for people to come in and clean up to start the day with showers and laundry.  Gilboa said 60 percent of people who use the downtown facility are employed, but only at minimum wage.

“It’s really boring.  People come in to take care of themselves,” Gilboa told the crowd.  The organizers also said that Ballard was currently underserved by low income housing with many people being pushed out of the neighborhood by skyrocketing home prices and rent.

But many in the audience, including a group of people who live in the area near the proposed building, say they have concerns about what happens when the rest stop isn’t open.  They worry about lines forming outside the building in the overnight hours as the homeless wait for the rest stop to open. 

“You have no way to protect us when you’re not open,” said one member of the audience.

Others questioned if Ballard really needed a facility like this, especially in a residential area.

“It seems like you’re bombarding Ballard,” one man told the crowd.

“There are about five cars of people that camp on that street.  I would like to know how having an urban rest stop on a residential block, not Market, helps rather than exacerbates homeless camping on this residential block,” said one neighbor.

Proposed site at 2014 NW 57th St.

But some did speak in favor of the development, including a former employee of the Ballard library and a downtown resident who says she’s invested in some Ballard condos.

“I’d say Ballard has the most pervasive homeless population of any community in Seattle except for the central library.  I know people are concerned. I’m not a resident of Ballard, but in terms of a need it’s pretty apparent to people who work in the library that there are homeless people here all the time and there’s definitely a need for a rest stop,” said the library employee.

“I had more problems with the party people,” said the downtown resident who used to live in Belltown.  “Over where I’m at right now with Urban Rest Stop right next door, there’s an orderliness,” the downtown resident said.

Sharon Lee, executive director of the Low Income Housing Institute, said the property has not been purchased yet.  LIHI will be depending on a mix of private funding and government programs.  She says they currently have no plans to proceed with the development unless the Urban Rest Stop is included.  Lee told the audience that more community meetings will be planned as the project moves forward.

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