Urban Politics #114: Forum On A Civil Approach To Helping Homeless People Downtown

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By City Councilmember Nick Licata.

With assistance from my Legislative Assistant Newell Aldrich on this issue.

Urban Politics (UP) blends my insights and information on current public policy developments and personal experiences with the intent of helping citizens shape Seattle’s future.


Forum On A Civil Approach To Helping Homeless People Downtown

On Thursday, October 18th, at noon in the Plymouth Congregational Church (6th and University Ave) bring a brown bag lunch and an open mind to consider how the City might take a new approach to helping those who are homeless.

The keynote speaker at this educational forum will be Ray Stenrud, the former director of Vancouver’s Evelyne Saller Centre, a full service downtown Community Center for the Homeless. Each day it serves hot meals for 1,000 people and processes 80 loads of laundry, in addition to providing showers, delousing services, a bank, para-counseling and referral services, recreational and life skills programs.

The City of Vancouver supports several such centers but this one offers the most comprehensive approach to helping homeless people. I talked to Judy Graves, Vancouver’s Coordinator for Homeless Services, and asked her if such centers might contribute to more crime and loitering since this is a concern of some downtown businesses and residents.

She wrote back the following:

“My personal impression (23 years of working in the urban core) is that crime and loitering have always been present. If anything, problems are reduced when folk have a safe and interesting place to spend their time. Loneliness and boredom cause much loitering and crime, and are major contributors to addiction relapse. I see the centres always having a positive, wholesome, respectful impact on my clients.”

I supported the creation of Seattle’s Urban Rest Stop, a current downtown hygiene center for homeless people. But that facility was over its capacity a month after it opened.

The question I have is, should the City of Seattle have a Downtown Community Center to serve those who are homeless? Can we learn anything from Vancouver’s experience in providing such centers?

To help shape that discussion I’ve invited a panel with representatives from business, social service and community organizations to comment on Mr. Stenrud’s presentation and pose questions to him: How effective is it in helping those who are homeless get off the streets?; What is the impact on the businesses and residences next to such a Community Center?; How does it maintain its political support in the community?


Bill Hobson, Executive Director of the Downtown Emergency Service Center

Casey Jones, Ex. Dir. of the Pioneer Sq. Community Association

Lyn Krizanich, Chair of the Denny Triangle Neighborhood Association, Property Manger for Clise Properties and a downtown resident

Sharon Lee, Ex. Dir. of Low Income Housing Institute

Betty Jane Narver, Library Board Trustee, contact Laurie Brown 386-4111

Rita Ryder, Board Member of the Downtown Seattle Association, Ex. Dir. of YWCA

Mayoral and City Council candidates are invited to attend to comment and question Mr. Stenrud

The audience will also have an opportunity to comment and ask questions.

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