Controversial Ballard homeless shelter to close

Our Redeemer’s Church says it’s been unable to reach an agreement with the homeless group SHARE on new screening procedures, so the church has decided to close the homeless shelter in Loyal Heights.

In September, neighbors discovered a convicted child rapist living at the Calvary Lutheran shelter at 70th and 23rd Ave NW. The Level III sex offender was quickly banished, but neighbors demanded that SHARE screen new members for sex offenders. Our Redeemer’s tells My Ballard today that it asked SHARE to conduct the checks, but SHARE “indicated their inability to do so.” Prior to the discovery of the sex offender, SHARE had repeatedly refused neighbor requests for the checks, calling sex offender screening “un-American.”

“I am glad that Our Redeemer’s stepped up and decided to require sex offender background checks, yet disappointed that SHARE wouldn’t take this one simple step to ensure the survival of the shelter,” said one neighbor who wished to remain anonymous. In a statement later this afternoon, our Redeemer’s added:

“Our Redeemer’s is deeply saddened that the process of seeking a more effective entry protocol has at times led to neighbors, church members, and homeless people taking apparently opposite sides, when in fact we are partners in creating safe, compassionate community for all. Most of us want a safe place for people who are homeless to sleep. Reasonable people may disagree on how to reach that goal. Our Redeemer’s asks that all of us involved in discussions about the Calvary campus shelter extend the presumption of good faith to one another and treat each other with respect.”

Our Redeemer’s says no date has been set for the shelter’s closure, and the timing may hinge on SHARE’s ability to find a new location. SHARE has been unavailable for comment.

Neighbors: Make changes at homeless shelter

More than a hundred neighbors who live near the Calvary Lutheran homeless shelter say they want sex offender background checks or the shelter must be relocated or shut down, according to newly-released minutes of a meeting held with SHARE and Our Redeemer’s Church last week.

Last month, neighbors were alerted by the Sheriff’s Department that a Level 3 sex offender was staying at the shelter. After learning the news from the neighborhood, SHARE promptly removed the man, who had been previously convicted of child rape. At last week’s meeting, SHARE said the Department of Corrections was supposed to notify them whenever a sex offender registered with an address that matched a shelter. But a neighbor said she spoke with DOC and discovered the process only works when sex offenders notify the DOC that their new residence is a homeless shelter, as they’re required to do. SHARE said it plans to meet with DOC and the Sheriff’s Department to discuss the breakdown in communications and to establish a better system.

In the meantime, SHARE says it’s not accepting any new residents at the Calvary Lutheran homeless shelter until a “new screening protocol” can be put into place. SHARE also said the screener who questioned the sex offender is no longer working with the organization.

According to the meeting minutes, 146 neighbors in Loyal Heights signed a petition that asked that SHARE begin screening for sex offenders or the shelter should be shut down or relocated. A survey of 78 neighbors found that 96% want a sex offender check. SHARE has refused to conduct sex offender checks as part of the new resident screening — relying instead on the DOC notifications — but they left open the possibility of revisiting the idea.

Neighbors said they want to hear back from SHARE and Our Redeemers by October 8th, but both said that date was too early to come to an agreement on a new entry screening protocol. We’ll keep you updated.

Earlier: “(We’re) more than deeply saddened,” said Our Redeemers

Our Redeemers: ‘More than deeply saddened’

Over the weekend, a Level III sex offender was removed from the SHARE homeless shelter at Calvary Lutheran church. Pastor Steve Grumm of Our Redeemer’s Lutheran Church, which oversees the Calvary property, told us today that he is “more than deeply saddened by this.”

“It’s not only a surprise, but an alarm,” he said. Grumm said he’s held several conversations since the weekend with SHARE about the organization’s screening process, which does not include sex offender background checks. “They seem open to additional accountability,” Grumm said, adding that the task force set up to monitor the shelter plans to meet with SHARE later this week. Neighborhood representatives of the task force are demanding that sex offender checks “be immediately implemented,” but a SHARE representative told us on Monday that the sex offender incident “doesn’t change anything.”

“We had something going,” Pastor Grumm says about how well the Calvary Lutheran shelter was running before this weekend. “Neighbors were even bringing residents food.” Grumm said he plans to meet with neighbors next week after he’s spoken more in-depth with SHARE.

SHARE: Sex offender removed from shelter

A sex offender who has been living at the Calvary Lutheran homeless shelter in Loyal Heights has been removed, SHARE confirmed to My Ballard today.

This weekend a My Ballard reader posted a notice in the forum claiming that a Level III sex offender was living at the church for a few weeks. We spoke with Alan at SHARE this morning, and he confirmed a sex offender moved into the shelter on August 21st. Alan said they discovered the man’s background on Saturday, and SHARE members removed him on Saturday night.

Neighborhood members of the task force set up to monitor the shelter reacted in an email this morning. “We have communicated to [Our Redeemer’s Pastor] Steve Grumm our extreme disappointment, concern, and frankly, anger that this situation was allowed to occur,” they wrote. “We have demanded that rigorous screening for sex offenses be immediately implemented for each prospective shelter resident before he is allowed to use the shelter.”

Despite the neighborhood’s repeated requests, SHARE refused to conduct sex offender checks, even calling them “un-American.” Alan says that the discovery of this sex offender does not change their stance. “We’ve never had a problem,” he said. “It doesn’t change anything.” We spoke with one neighbor who lives near the church. “This is what we were concerned about,” he tells us. “They are no longer welcome in my neighborhood.”

The neighborhood task force said it will be meeting with Pastor Grumm soon to discuss how the screening will be implemented. We have contacted Pastor Grumm for a comment, and will post it as soon as we hear back.
(Thanks Shanedillon for your forum post!)

Compass Center plans 7-story building

At the Ballard District Council meeting Wednesday night, the Compass Center previewed their plans to build a facility for the homeless at the now-empty lot at 1753 NW 56th St. The 7-story building will feature 80 units of permanent housing for both homeless men and women. (Earlier plans were for a women-only facility.) “We have no worries about filling 80 units of housing,” said M.J. Kiser with the Compass Center. “We’re just anxious to get it up and going.” The facility will be staffed around the clock, and Kiser said they’ll offer support services including treatment for mental health and substance abuse. “I know we’ll have some of the folks from Ballard, but unfortunately we have 80 units, and there are more than 80 homeless folks in Ballard,” she said.

As for when the facility will open, the Compass Center said they expect to finish construction in February of 2012. In the meantime, they plan to level the ground and plant grass in the empty lot. One neighbor at the council meeting, Michael Wolf, asked if he could suggest ideas for the empty lot in the meantime. Some of the ideas, he told us after the meeting, include a community garden, public art or just a place for people to sit and enjoy a cup of coffee. Compass Center organizers said they invite ideas from the neighborhood, so stay tuned.

Task force report on SHARE homeless shelter

On May 30th, a group of homeless men moved into a SHARE shelter at the vacant Calvary Lutheran Church in Ballard. As you may remember, it was a controversial addition to the neighborhood. A task force comprised of neighbors, SHARE and members of Our Redeemers Church was set up, and My Ballard received an email of the minutes from their last meeting in July.

There are 13 people using the shelter, the task force reports. The turnover rate has been pretty high — likely due to the location change and the fact that shelter occupancy rates tend to drop off in the summer months. “Some neighbors have noticed an increase in family use of Salmon Bay Park and noted overall quiet in vicinity since SHARE moved in,” the minutes read, explaining that SHARE members conduct security checks in the area three times a night. There have been three reports of loitering, when residents arrive before 7 p.m. And a neighbor reported seeing a SHARE member during the day inside the 10-block exclusion zone around the church. “This issue has been addressed,” the report reads, adding that neighbors should contact Marvin, SHARE’s organizer, immediately with any rule violations.

The Ballard Food Bank is within the 10-block zone, so SHARE members are restricted from going there. People are welcome to drop food off for the residents on any evening. “SHARE residents expressed appreciation for donations of food, clothing and 2 refrigerators,” the minutes read. “Overall, things are working out great,” a SHARE member said.

Neighbors hear homeless shelter plans

About 80 neighbors gathered at Calvary Lutheran Church in Loyal Heights Wednesday night for a community meeting about the SHARE homeless shelter that’s moving into the building on May 30th. Our Redeemers Pastor Steve Grumm and a half-dozen SHARE members, with the help of a moderator, explained the shelter’s ground rules and fielded a wide range of questions.

Pastor Grumm said that the church will check in with the shelter members every night, and a task force will be created with neighbors to address any new concerns that arise. SHARE members briefed neighbors on their rules — no alcohol, drugs or loitering in the area — and they plan to provide safety patrols for a two block radius around the church every hour from 7 to 10 p.m.

“I’m really glad you’re going to be in our neighborhood,” said Sharon, who lives nearby. “We welcome you.” While many neighbors agreed, others felt Our Redeemers and SHARE didn’t go far enough to ensure a safe environment. “I feel the concerns we brought up fell on deaf ears,” said Ivan, who was a member of the neighborhood task force that worked with the church and SHARE. He focused most of his frustration at SHARE, which has refused to submit to “un-American” background checks, one of the key requests from neighbors. “We’re dealing with an organization that hasn’t shown one ounce of willingness to negotiate,” Ivan said. SHARE, meanwhile, defended their screening process and system of accountability. “We manage ourselves,” said Benjamin. “If someone goes off into someone’s yard, we call the cops. We’re responsible for what goes on.” Other neighbors asked for better communication, namely a 24-hour phone number they could call if problems arise.

The surprise guest of the night was Seattle Deputy Mayor Tim Ceis who stood up to answer a question about the legality of hosting a homeless shelter at the vacant church. “We don’t require permits for churches when they want to minister to the homeless,” he said, explaining the homeless problem is greater than the city can solve on its own. “The mayor asked for churches to open their doors to help.” The SHARE shelter is moving in on May 30th.

Meeting to discuss homeless shelter tonight

Just a reminder, tonight is the community meeting at Calvary Lutheran Church to discuss the controversial SHARE homeless shelter.

Earlier this month, Our Redeemer’s Lutheran Church, which manages the vacant Calvary Lutheran Church, decided to host the shelter without requiring sex offender background checks, a request made by many neighbors. The nighttime shelter of up to 20 men, currently in West Seattle, is moving in on May 30th. Tonight’s meeting will answer questions from the neighborhood about the shelter. It begins at 7 p.m. at Calvary Lutheran (7002 NW 23rd Ave.).

Church votes on shelter, results on Sunday

The congregation of Our Redeemer’s Church voted Thursday night on whether to open a SHARE homeless shelter at the vacant Calvary Lutheran Church in Loyal Heights. The results will be revealed to the congregation on Sunday.

After the two-hour meeting, Pastor Stephen Grumm told us the vote was passionate, fruitful and honest. “There were lots of diverse opinions,” he said, explaining the ballots have yet to be counted. About three dozen people attended the closed-door, congregation-only meeting.

Neighbors of Calvary Lutheran delivered a two-page letter to Pastor Grumm to read to the group. The letter mapped out three conditions: church accountability of the building, direct oversight of the shelter, and required sex offender background checks on the shelter members. But SHARE members have refused the sex offender background check requirement, explaining they have a policy that sex offenders are not allowed to stay at their shelters.

In the letter, neighbors explained they spoke with the King County Sheriff’s office about how they keep tabs on homeless sex offenders. “[Deputies] said the only way that SHARE would know if they have a registered sex offender staying with them is if they did a background check either by calling the King County Sex Offender Unit or by checking on their website,” the letter reads. “Due to the large number of small children and the presence of a daycare center nearby, we feel it’s imperative to ensure the safety of those children by obtaining these background checks.” We’ll let you know the results of the vote on Sunday.

Trash, brush cleared from ‘the Jungle’

While we were attending Saturday’s clean-up event, a concerned neighbor took us on a tour of “the Jungle,” an overgrown strip of land between Ballard Ave. and Shilshole along 22nd Ave. She told us the Jungle is a hotbed of drug use and a popular homeless hangout, especially at night.

We didn’t see any homeless on the property, but bedding and trash littered the area. Ballard District Coordinator Rob Mattson confirmed that some business owners and neighbors have complained about the land in recent weeks.

Much of the property is owned by the Olympic Athletic Club, which operates the parking lot there. The concerned neighbor, who asked us not to use her name, approached a city representative at today’s clean-up event to see if crews could clear out the brush and trash. But because it’s private property, he told her that he needed a signed letter of permission from OAC.

So she ran down Ballard Ave. and spoke to Olympic Athletic Club. Moments later, she returned out of breath, letter in hand. “This is a little unusual,” the city representative said. But within a few minutes, a Department of Corrections work crew with brush-clearing equipment moved in.

By noon, workers had cleared out trash, bedding and heavy brush in the most problematic part of the Jungle (compare this photo to the first one above). “I think the mayor put a tool in our hands today, and we were able to utilize it beyond our expectations,” she told us. “Every little step is an improvement in our attempt to keep our city safe, and we are extremely grateful.”

We’re told the work crew will also be picking up trash under the Ballard Bridge in coming days, another popular homeless hangout.