In response to Seattle Times reporter Danny Westneat…
Good morning Danny!
I woke up this morning and the first story I read was your article on the potential homeless encampment in Ballard. This is the first opportunity I have taken to comment on the subject because your story seems to have missed the general points the opposition is concerned about. To begin, I am a local artist and community leader who fully supports the idea of finding helpful and lasting solutions for the homeless population in Seattle and beyond. I worked as a program director for both the Loyal Heights and Ballard Community Centers for over 12 year, in which time we showed our support for a homeless encampment at the Our Redeemers Lutheran Church back in 2008. This project was welcomed and without incident. During this particular encampment, our community center staff at Ballard and the participating students prepared meals for the entire homeless camp and delivered them to the people of that community…an event I will not soon forget. Additionally, I have been involved with the Homeless in Seattle organization’s Street Heart project over the last two years. I have been one of the artists chosen to paint portraits of homeless individuals which are then sold at auction to support the Homeless in Seattle foundation.
I write to you more as a concerned member of our amazing city. The problem I have with the proposed encampment is the lack of input the city has given its citizens, the proximity to many local businesses (i.e. bars, liquor store, smoke shop, medical marijuana dispensary, select wine shop) and the overall cost it is incurring to ‘clean up’ the exact location where the people will be living (over $145,000 so far.) I also find it difficult to understand how the city council can justify imposing an encampment on a busy street such as Market Street…it’s almost like the city wants to put a black eye on the idea of homeless camps. Nothing the city council has done, which includes listening to the general public, tells me that they care one bit about what the people think. I am all for finding appropriate locations for encampments such as this. Unfortunately, the city council imposed the idea without any previous notice to any of the businesses or neighbors of Ballard. In fact, the city was forced to inform the neighborhood of possible dust contamination as they renovated the site. I find it egregious that the council has decided to flex its muscles as they are in this situation. I believe people have responded negatively due to the lack of due process. The homeless are part of our community and we, as a general public, should work together in support rather than in opposition.
I appreciate your words and contribution to this controversial topic. I know your points are coming from a positive place and they are all valid and noteworthy. I look forward to your feedback and hope to continue a dialog that may help our city be a bit more mindful than reactionary. Thank you and have a wonderful rest of the weekend!