Dissention At Virtual Town Hall Meeting About Hotel For Homeless Silver Cloud Inn
Hosted by King County Councilmember Claudia Balducci and King County Department of Community and Human Services Director Leo Flor, people voiced their deep concerns about the safety of their children and the crime the hotel would bring into the neighborhood during a Zoom meeting Thursday night.
One lady asked Balducci what parents will be able to do if their children are verbally threatened or assaulted out on the street near the hotel. She also asked why was the location chosen in the area where there are 12 schools within a few miles of the hotel. Directly addressing Balducci she asked, "What do we do to keep our children safe?"
Balducci responded basically that police would be called. Further explaining her thoughts about what can keep the neighborhood safe Balducci said, "There is an interface between the hotel and the local community and jurisdictions, so we need to have that partnership with the city so they can enforce the laws in their community."
That did not answer how to prevent police being called for the problems people expected the hotel to create in the first place.
People gave examples of Clement Place in Seattle where neighbors have reported having bad experiences living in that area. Clement Place is housing for people with mental illness, drug addictions and physical disabilities.
Reports of junk cars, streets used to fix cars and parking them all over leaving oil in the street, shouting at night, frequent emergency vehicles in the area, and lots of needles being found in the neighborhood near Clement Place was brought up. Attendees asked how the Silver Inn Hotel would not bring in the same problems to the area.
Flor explained that "people do better when there is a roof over their heads" but someone texted in the chat area that hotel rooms don't cure addictions or mental illness.
The facility will have no security. There will be staff on-site around the clock but the operator will have "a code of conduct and rules and regulations in and around the building." We all know how paper to hold violent offenders away from their former spouses can stop physical assaults against them.
It wasn't exactly an answer that made people happy.
People expressed concerns that the hotel would attract people from other areas to commit crimes and deal drugs.
The facility will not be responsible for what goes on outside their building. It will be up to the neighbors to be a watch-dog on what happens at the hotel.
But Balducci expressed that she "has faith that it will work" and that "it will work if we all work together" and that "everyone is making unfair assumptions".
It sounded like she was a cheerleader trying to convince serious intelligent people who were not taking her seriously.
People began texting in the meeting that:
"She's making decisions on your imagination! Check Seattle!"
"We feel safe if the hotel was modeled as a jail."
"Drug dealers will have a party here."
"Show us the action plan."
The public brought many great questions but were given rosy responses that seemed to avoid the reality of drugs being continually used that would bring in more drugs to be bought and sold in the area.
One person asked, where the hotel residents go they go if they are kicked out of the hotel? This was asked several times. Flor responded that they arrange transportation for them, seek confirmation for wherever they will go and provide transportation to a new place. Also that in King County they don't have the ability to tell a person they may not be in a city.
Lack of Transparency and Public Input
One of the big concerns expressed was how the hotel was purchased and the plans were put in place for it to provide housing for the homeless far in advance of the public learning about it.
Balducci explained the hotel was bought quickly because it was up for sale at a good price and had to be done quickly. And then there was something about COVID-19 playing a part. Someone posted that this hotel sale was negotiated over ten months.
One person spoke eloquently about the way the hotel program was put in place and that it has been done backwards, having been brought to the public after all the decisions had been made. The fact that it did not inspire trust with the community. He commented that since the hotel has been bought already and they're going forward with the plan that he hoped it will work out.
Only 15% of local homeless is the minimum percent that will be housed. One person asked "where will the other 85% come from?" Comments posted asked how the hotel will serve the Eastside but will probably draw the homeless from Seattle and other areas and not focus on the Eastside cities of Redmond, Bellevue and Kirkland.
Flor replied with a confusing answer. He explained something to the effect that the homeless are not residents of any certain city, so homeless people coming from all areas could be considered as living in Redmond the same as any homeless person who lives in the area. So the 15% or the 85% didn't really apply or something like that.
After this is said and done Balducci said she will review the comments and learn from the comments what other "substantial" concerns people have. But after already making the decision to buy the hotel and turn it into homeless housing, many people felt more hotels were in store for the area without the public's knowledge and that they would be purchased for homeless housing behind closed doors too.
A few people expressed that they learned about the hotel being purchased to serve the homeless through the Neighbors app.
Trying to paint a rosy picture about how well this is going to work out and make people feel guilty about not wanting a hotel for the homeless in their neighborhood was ineffective against the people who came prepared with intelligent concerns.
Concerns about their families and children playing outside or walking to school. Some people expressed that it would not be an area where their children would be walking outdoors when the hotel was up and running.
A few attendees spoke up thanking the hosts for presenting the meeting. But there comments were overwhelmingly outnumbered by the people who are against the hotel due to it's location and how it was not presented to the public for discussion. One lady said it should have been voted on by the community.
The meeting finally ended after nearly five hours of disagreement between the the hosts and most of the attendees either speaking up or chatting in the sidebar.
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