On Monday April 17th, the Bellevue City Council, in a vote that defied common sense and due diligence, voted 4 to 3 to move forward with siting a King County regional low-barrier men’s homeless shelter by the Eastgate Park and Ride in Bellevue, firmly confirming its bid to officially join the Homeless Industrial Complex.
What, you may ask, just is this “Homeless Industrial Complex”. Well, thank you for asking and allow me to explain. The best description I have seen says the Homeless Industrial Complex is “an impressive money-making machine for several nonprofit shelters and service providers that claim to work on behalf of the homeless. The leaders of many of the shelters and services proclaim to be knowledgeable on studies and have experts at their disposal. And yet, at the heart of the matter they are all paid professionals and one can’t help but wonder how involved they would be if they were not reaping financial rewards.”
This was first used as an accusation leveled towards Congregations for the Homeless (CFH), when I was first informed of the plans to site a shelter in Eastgate, back in October of 2016. At the time, I vehemently defended CFH and its intentions, especially due to my years of experience volunteering for non-profits providing services to help the homeless, both as a long-time volunteer (more than 15 years) and both as a board member and board chair of a multimillion dollar non-profit whose mission is to “offer… build… and ally with youth as they meet their future off the streets!”
However, in the ensuing months, and culminating this past week, it’s become abundantly clear to me, that CFH is firmly ensconced in its singularly focused determination to influence the outcome of siting this shelter in Eastgate DESPITE the overwhelming concerns raised by the community and leadership, DESPITE the data and information showing there are at least 2 significantly more viable site options that have not been considered and DESPITE pleas from the community to consider programming options that may better serve this population. And then, to top it all off, CFH went above and beyond to put the word out amongst their followers, churches and their membership from around the greater Seattle area, who all showed up on Monday, brightly dressed in red, to “show their support”.
This made most clear to us by a clergyman and his wife, from Seattle, who were there to show their “support” for the shelter and who clearly made their “disdain” of those who oppose and fear mongering, heartless, and uncompassionate, who don’t care about the people who would be served. Boy – he couldn’t have been more wrong – and sadly – there’s simply no room for discussion.
In the next few days and weeks, those of us who are working hard to see the shelter is appropriately sited, will be releasing new information (new that is to us!) showing, once again, the city of Bellevue, and especially those organizations leading the direction of this project, Imagine Housing, ARCH and CFH, have chosen to at best ignore, and at worst, to hide or claim ignorance of, in order to forward their personal agendas, from which they all clearly benefit financially.
Exactly. CFH has shown it’s true color… and that is GREEN (and not with envy, either).
I also have worked in social work and specifically with homeless young adults for many years. I agree with this post and appreciate your clear thinking here. The only thing that concerns me about siting a shelter on the light rail line, and not a place with regular bus access, is under the current system that is used for the homeless in king county to use public transit, the shelter becomes mostly inaccessible.
Services are given bus tickets for free by metro every year, and the number is finite. Bus tickets aren’t accepted on light rail, you have to use an orca card. The majority of folks who will be needing to access this shelter won’t have access to orca cards, and while some (not all) services do offer orca cards, those that do can’t offer them to all clients. We have actually seen attendance numbers in services go down after light rail stations have opened in their neighborhoods, because metro and sound transit cut bus routes to those neighborhoods.
So this concerns me, building a shelter that folks can’t get to. I’m not saying that building it elsewhere is what makes sense, just that we think about all the pieces. I don’t have a great answer to this, and would welcome your thoughts.
Thank you so much for your thoughts Chuck, they are really appreciated. I totally hear and believe I understand what you’re saying and am not sure myself on how this may be resolved. In a best case scenario, any service provider location, whether it be a food bank, a place that serves meals or a shelter, would be sited in an area that meets the most needs possible, in any given scenario, understanding that no place will be perfect.
The new OMFE site that is being discussed, while it will indeed be a light rail station as opposed to buses, is also sited in close proximity to the emergency services provided by the major medical centers in downtown Bellevue as well as walking distance from the only methadone clinic in this area. The issue around the light rail vs bus tickets is an interesting one worth pursuing and I’ll ask this of those I know who are in the position of providing these services.
Thank you again for the comment and if you have any thoughts on where folks might gain more insight to this, please don’t hesitate to share. You’re also welcome to reach out to me directly, if you prefer, at tzachilitovATgmail.com.