FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Olympia Neighborhood Requests Moratorium on New Brick and Mortar Homeless Shelters, Changes to Municipal Code
Municipal Code Changes would consider proximity of low-barrier shelters to schools, neighborhoods
OLYMPIA, WASH. – September 13, 2013– The municipal code should place a buffer between low-barrier homeless shelters and schools and neighborhoods. That’s the message Concerned Eastside Neighbors, a group of residents in Olympia’s Eastside Neighborhood, is sending to the community. The group was formed in early August to oppose the placement of a low-barrier homeless shelter at the edge of the Eastside Neighborhood.
A shelter is considered “low-barrier” when it has minimal rules for entry. Under the proposed model, sex offenders, drug users, and felons would be allowed and ID would not be required. Drugs would not be allowed on site, but syringes would be provided for off-site use. Steven Welliever, an Eastside resident, is concerned about the impact of drug use in the neighborhood. “The local needle exchange is on track to hand out over 1 million needles this year and we are seeing them everywhere – parks, playgrounds, sidewalks. We need to think hard about where this shelter is placed.” Welliever said.
Over 200 residents turned out for a forum last month, many with concerns about sex offenders, drug use, and weapons policies. The proposal would turn those with guns away, but other weapons could be stored in a lock-box. Some residents found little comfort in this measure. “The number of stabbings and violence we are seeing among the homeless population is out of hand. Placing this on 10th Ave beside an elementary school is just a bad idea.” says Casey Allan who lives nearby.
Interfaith Works, the organization leading the shelter project announced Tuesday that they are dropping the proposed site on 10th Ave, but, with five sites in the neighborhood still on the consideration list, neighbors are concerned about where it may end up. Jessica Archer, Spokesperson for Concerned Eastside Neighbors says it time to change the local laws. “The fact that they never even considered proximity to schools and neighborhoods in their location criteria speaks volumes. We need to be strategic about where we place any facility that will be housing a high-risk population like this. We need to consider impacts to the schools and neighborhoods and currently, there’s nothing in our Municipal Code that does this.” Archer stated. The group has made a formal request to City Council to place a moratorium on new brick and mortar shelters until the Municipal Code can be changed. The moratorium would not affect temporary cold-weather shelters.
Jim Keogh, who has lived in the neighborhood for 25 years is confident the community can find a solution. “We are already housing almost 80% of the cities shelter beds in or adjacent to our neighborhood. We are a very compassionate neighborhood, but this low-barrier concept is really different and demands special consideration. Olympia can find a solution that works without negative impacts to the neighborhoods – a solution that works for everyone” Keogh said.
Members and supporters of Concerned Eastside Neighbors will be attending a community forum on Monday, September 16, to voice their opposition to the proposed placement of the low-barrier shelter in or around the Eastside Neighborhood. The forum will take place at the Knox Building Auditorium 1113 Eastside Street, in Olympia at 7 p.m.
Concerned Eastside Neighbors is a group of residents in Olympia’s Eastside Neighborhood who stand together in strong opposition to the placement of a low-barrier homeless shelter (the People’s House) in or adjacent to the neighborhood. Learn more at concernedeastsideneighbors.wordpress.com.
Concerned Eastside Neighbors