Online news site Crosscut posted a story on Monday by author Julie Gunter that details efforts by the faith community in northeast Seattle to provide housing and food for homeless people in small scale, church-sponsored shelters.
The article theorizes that the model of small-scale, ecumenical response being done in Lake City could change the way homelessness is addressed in the larger community.
From the report:
Last fall, as homeless community members reluctant to seek shelter downtown faced a cold season on Lake City’s streets, a new coalition stepped up to fill the gap left by the empty fire station. The Lake City Task Force on Homelessness, Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission and four other local churches— Seattle Mennonite Church, Prince of Peace Lutheran Church, Our Lady of the Lake Parish and Lake City Baptist Church —came together to offer homeless neighbors a rotating volunteer-run satellite shelter from November through March.
Congregations have been helped in their efforts by revised state law, ESHB 1956, which more clearly defined the authority of religious bodies to house the homeless on congregational property in 2009. More recently, an ordinance unanimously passed by the Seattle City Council in 2011 authorized churches to host encampments for extended periods of time, as long as they meet basic public health and safety standards, promote good neighbor relations, prohibit banned substances and weapons, prohibit sex offenders and enforce rules related to the proximity of children within or near the shelter.
The issue of concentrating homeless people in Lake City, such as with the larger-scale shelter at the public-owned Fire Station 39, had previously caused an uproar. The frustration was increased because homeless people from downtown shelter overflow and emergency room releases were being sent to the Lake City shelter. The influx of homeless from outside the neighborhood even frustrated longtime neighborhood homeless as they had to suddenly negotiate services in the neighborhood along with many others.
But the church-sponsored, smaller scale shelters have not generated any noticeable protest from neighbors. Previous stories about the small-scale church shelters have not sparked online debate among readers like stories about the larger, permanent projects such as Fire Station 39 or the proposed Community Psychiatric Clinic’s Valor Apartments for veterans with a dual diagnosis of substance abuse and mental illness.
The Crosscut story gives a good look inside efforts by the faith community. Our Lady of the Lake in Wedgewood participated recently in the rotating shelter and the story gives a description of how the church-sponsored shelter operated.
From the story:
Michael Palmer, parish administrator, explains that, without a clear guide to follow, his job began as “a process of weaving my way through the city, the city’s building department, and the permitting process.” Strict archdiocesan policies, insurance requirements and fire code regulations were also closely followed…
For the approximately five to fifteen men and women who arrived at night, chilled and foot-sore, fresh flowers, radiator-warmth and dark, strong coffee provided a semblance of home. Guests congregated around a long table to eat meals, tell stories and watch classic movies before heading at curfew to their camp-style mats and blankets.
You can read the entire story about effort by area churches to house and feed homeless in our area here: http://crosscut.com/2013/03/04/social-services/113254/can-churches-solve-our-homelessness-problem/