Photo by Shane Harms
Meeting attendee pleading for basic human rights for homeless and low income people.

A deeper look at the LIHI URS public meeting

Dear Editor,
I wish to respond to the article in the June 13th edition of the Westside Weekly, “Where will the LIHI Urban Rest Stop reside?”

I was surprised and concerned at the number of inaccuracies and misconceptions contained in the article—I found it altogether misleading as to the facts and even the tone of the DPD meeting the article covered.

The two issues of substance are parking and what is called dispersion. Both require findings to be made by the City.

Regarding dispersion: It is not a code violation to have 2 community centers within 600 feet of each other as your article would lead one to believe. How would the new library have been able to build on a site so close to St. Luke’s Church if this were true? Rather, an application for a community center in close proximity to others triggers an administrative review, which allows findings to be made. I am sure this is because the category of ‘community center’ is such a broad and catch all use.

Regarding parking: Two independent parking studies have been performed. To quote the latest; “Overall, there is ample on-street parking available to accommodate the parking demand associated with the URS.” (Heffron Transportation, Inc., June 3, 2014)

Your article reported at length about the parking issue and largely ignored the compelling testimony made by the proponents (myself included) of this worthy facility, by passing them off as comments from “homeless and religious advocates …that the community has a moral obligation...” I am neither homeless or of the religious community --neither were most of the testifying proponents. This included a woman who owns a café across from one of the other 2 successful URS’s, the one in the University District. She, herself, was homeless for several years as a youth with her father. She stated that she has had nothing but positive experiences with the URS and its clients. She is a Ballard resident and said she would welcome the URS on her block.

And, yes, let’s include the moral obligation of the Ballard community presented at length at the DPD hearing and not covered in your article. Homelessness is a fact of life and we certainly have our share of those without a home where they would be able to perform the simple acts of bathing and cleaning their clothes, something most of us take for granted each day. How humiliating and degrading would it be if the only place you had to clean up was in a sink in the public library bathroom? Not very effective and with nothing more to be done, you had to face the world.

Who are our homeless? It was presented that LIHI’s clients include families with children, the underemployed, those working for minimum wage, those who lost their jobs in the Recession, veterans, retirees, and, yes, our least fortunate. What is seen day to day in Ballard is not the wide diversity that makes up the homeless population, the great segment that want nothing more than to be clean so they can face the challenges of life knowing they are not wearing their homeless condition like a ‘scarlet letter’. How can somebody seek and keep a job if they are not clean. This simple act of the opportunity to be clean is the very least we can do for the great majority of homeless who strive each day in their battle to transition out of homelessness.

And WE don’t have to do anything. LIHI has chosen Ballard for a URS. We should be so lucky. We should be welcoming them with open arms.

Other hearing testimony not reported was the great success the other two URS’s are and how strongly their neighborhoods stand in support of the their respective facilities.

Not reported was the fact that LIHI held a series of community workshops for the neighbors to become informed, express their concerns and allow LIHI to respond and mitigate any concerns. Out of these meetings, attended by many of the opponents at the DPD hearing, have come a draft Good Neighbor Plan, a Code of Conduct for the clients, and a pledge by LIHI to continue to work with the community. What more can they do?

Finally, let’s be frank. What is in it for us? How about being able to use the library, ride the bus, sit in the park and not being offended by somebody’s smell. How about not being worried you might ‘catch something’ being in close proximity? A clean person is a healthier person and we all benefit from a healthier community. And how about being proud we are doing something tangible for the homeless in our back yard, indeed for our neighbors.

For more information, go to www.urbanreststop.org

Thank you,
Christina Rockrise
(not ‘Rockwell’, as reported)

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