Bellevue homeless shelter: Apples and oranges | Letter

In the Dec 16 Reporter, a writer expressed her support for the low-barrier homeless shelter, which is proposed to be built next to the Eastgate Park and Ride. I applaud her volunteer work, at what is often called the rotating churches shelter.

However, that is a totally different type of shelter than the Eastgate proposal. The shelter at which she volunteered is a medium-barrier shelter. Every man must pass a background check. No sex offenders are allowed. And it is a clean and sober shelter. No drugs or alcohol.

Similarly, Tent City 4 has strict rules and it, too, is a clean and sober community. The proposed Eastgate homeless shelter campus includes a low-barrier shelter and low-barrier day center. It would allow felons. It would allow sex offenders. And it would allow those who are actively addicted to drugs and alcohol. According to Congregations for the Homeless (CFH), the only rules are:

1. No violence

2. No drugs or alcohol on the premises.

Men may go offsite and shoot up or get drunk, then will be welcomed back into the shelter. Yes, addicts, sex offenders and former criminals are already among us. However, this would concentrate them in one area and a 100-bed low-barrier shelter is an unprecedented size in this state. What a great opportunity for a drug dealer to expand his clientele, when so many are in one place.

It’s no surprise that the writer and others are mistaken about the clientele in the low-barrier shelter. The city has been answering residents’ questions about a low-barrier shelter, with data from the medium-barrier rotating churches shelter. And we’ve found that many people of faith seem to have been led to believe that our opposition is directed at the rotating churches shelter and that is the shelter we are attempting to stop. Absolutely not!

We support the rotating churches shelter and want to encourage it. It’s a model that’s working successfully, it’s much smaller (so more manageable) and it doesn’t put a permanent burden on any one neighborhood. When we specifically asked CFH about it, we were told that the rotating churches shelter would continue. The proposed low-barrier shelter (the one we oppose), would be in addition to it, and the low-barrier designation is being driven by potential governmental funding.

Where I, and many others voicing opposition to this Eastgate site, wholeheartedly agree with the writer, is that we need to find a way to help these men. The city and City Council have stated that they don’t ever want another man to freeze to death in Bellevue. This shelter won’t provide that guarantee.

There are those among the chronically homeless who absolutely refuse to come to a shelter. A common response is, “It’s too dangerous.” They would rather take the chance of freezing to death. Until you solve that problem, throwing any amount of money at it, without even a business plan, is not a responsible use of taxpayer dollars.

There are empty beds in the faith-based shelters, tonight.

Michelle Wannamaker

Eastgate Residents Committee

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