Alarmed at the number of homeless families in this past cold and wet winter, the following letter was developed and signed onto by four neighborhoods, including Leschi. It seemed like an immediate way to get these families into a warm and dry environment while the slow process of individual housing was explored. This letter was sent to the Mayor and each of the City Councilmembers… with no response.
AN OPEN LETTER TO MAYOR MURRAY
Our community (Leschi) has learned that there are 70 students at Leschi Elementary School who are either homeless or in transitional housing. This is double the number from last year and the second highest homeless student population of schools in Seattle. This is not a goal we have sought and we can all agree this is a sign of a larger, systemic issue. Further, why isn’t anything being done about this?
Several years ago, our neighborhood learned about emergency planning from the city- what to do when the “big one” comes. We learned that each district has an emergency shelter for those whose homes are destroyed and that our shelter is Garfield Community Center. We learned that the Parks Department has cots, blankets and other emergency equipment stored and is prepared to deliver these supplies to each district shelter when needed. We think this space and these supplies are needed NOW. This IS a “big one” as far as we are concerned.
Moving homeless families into a warm shelter is a necessity in the winter. Yes, it will be disruptive to classes currently held at the Center, but what is the greater good? We, the citizens, pay substantial taxes to build and support these facilities and their programs and we should have a say in their use. While we appreciate the year round programming at these centers, there is an emergency need now and that should supercede other uses.
Parks can move the emergency equipment to the Center without having to negotiate broken pavement (as in an earthquake) and the city would have an opportunity to test their emergency planning. Is the equipment adequate? Supplies that don’t perform can be replaced and others replenished when housing is found for these families.
Creative use of space can accommodate day care programs and homeless families. We understand that 60% of those who are homeless work; workers would be gone during the day and students would be in schools. Preschool children could be absorbed into a day care program. Non-working adults can help with food preparation or other needs at the Center.
Ignoring these resources is unconscionable; more cold weather is predicted and we need to act now. We understand that this is something the Mayor can enact without going through the Council and we implore him to do so immediately. The Mayor has already declared homelessness an emergency; the logical next step is to put the City’s emergency plan into effect.
Leschi Community Council, Jackson Place, Cherry Hill Community Council, Judkins Park