Re: Proposed UGM Homeless Shelter
A Different Open Letter to the City of Kent
A subject with as much potential for polarizing various sects of the community must be discussed with a wide angle perspective. Where there are many who would consider themselves interested parties, it is imperative that none of the interested parties be seen as more important, and certainly should be no more influential, than any other. The recent reactions from a couple of Kent business owners, whose implication of representing the opinions of the majority of business owners is unfounded, should not be allowed to reduce the issues at hand to merely a question of money, industry and their view of progress.
I too am a longtime resident of Kent. I have owned a business in Kent, have many commercial clients on whom my livelihood depends that are based in Kent and I have long been involved with working with two of the fine organizations that serve the homeless in Kent. I disagree with Mike Hanis’ statement that we are all “warriors in the battle against homelessness”. Sadly, some of the initial reaction to this very attractive proposal to improve the service levels to our least fortunate indicates that many are reluctant spectators willing to pretend that Kent does not already suffer the negative consequences of homelessness.
This proposal can be evaluated using any number of criteria. Critical in my view is that, simply put, the population of homeless on the streets of Kent exists right now, and according to estimates, in significant numbers. Services currently providing evening meals have no provision or resources for providing services during the day. Our homeless population is left to wander the streets, often in retail centers or in the library. Loitering is prohibited, but moving a person does not make the person any less real in their next location. Inadequate public restroom facitities presents an obvious problem, leading to the necessity of using city park and retail restrooms, and of course inappropriate places. People without shelter add a burden to police and other public services both in time and resources.
The Union Gospel Mission proposal addresses these concerns, and what’s more, they’ll pay for it, offering to fund all operating costs of the proposed facility in return for rent-free use of the space. UGM mandates that overnight guests are drug and alcohol free, dispelling speculation that those guests would be a threat to neighboring businesses at night. The shelter would provide meals and restroom facilities that would reduce panhandling and using our outdoors as bathrooms. The shelter would provide a place for the homeless to go by day, reducing the burden on the library and other public facilities. UGM provides drug and alcohol programs. And although I am loathe to engage in the type of speculation that opponents have demonstrated, it does stand to reason that sheltering the homeless at night will reduce the burden on police services.
It is not imperative that we even discuss so-called “warm fuzzy” aspects of the proposed shelter to see its value. Certainly there is a significant humanitarian aspect to the proposal, perhaps best dealt with by those who see a city as more than just a conglomeration of money-generating businesses. But we can evaluate this proposal in more practical terms. The negative issues of a significant homeless population exist in Kent now. The strain on public facilities and services is real. The quality of life in Kent can be improved when citizens are not faced with their fellow citizens urinating on their front lawn and clogging the library because they have nowhere else to go. And finally, a significant portion of the homeless population is in transition; homeless by misfortune and needing a safe place to rest and set their belongings as they seek work and permanent shelter.
A city is a living community, dedicated to the welfare of all its citizens in a dynamic array of interconnected relationships, where the good for one should benefit the many. Kent, as the sixth largest city in Washington, has to face all of the issues of a growing city, and cannot avoid or procrastinate on the negative issues hoping they will solve themselves. This proposal is attractive, well conceived and presented by an organization with the infrastructure and experience to manage the facility and perform as excellent city partners.
[Address Provided But Withheld by Publisher]
Reprinted with permission from Kent resident Eric Greiling