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Time to create better plan to combat homelessness in Bellevue | Letter

You can’t be all things to all people and be effective.

Congregations for the Homeless (CFH) provides an appreciated service in our city. They have operated in conjunction with faith-based organizations since 1993. They are the obvious choice to lead in finding the solution to homelessness on the Eastside. Tent City 4 has been in many neighborhoods over the years. TC4 moves periodically so different faith groups can be involved in the mission of helping the homeless. There are some basic requirements to live at TC4: be clean and sober, pass a background check, not be a registered sex offender and provide identification. These standards help the parishioners and surrounding neighborhoods remain safe and secure.

CFH opened a winter shelter in 2008 to provide emergency housing to protect homeless people from inclement weather. This was for life saving purposes and no one was turned away regardless of their criminal background or sobriety. It was “low barrier” meaning they would accept known illegal drug users and registered sex offenders. The winter shelter has been in a few locations that by design were not near residential neighborhoods. It has operated for eight years without major incident in part because it was off the beaten track.

A winter shelter with a life safety mission may make sense to be “low barrier” in a remote area in winter months but it simply does not make sense year-round near residential neighborhoods, a college with a Running Start program and a Park-and-Ride where commuters often arrive in darkness. Addicted men will use and score their drugs outside the facility, and they will steal property in the area to support their habit. To say that homeless men do not cause an increase in violent crimes is not reassuring and statistics dispel that supposition. Property crimes have a significant psychological effect on people. A men’s low-barrier homeless shelter does not belong near anyone’s residential neighborhood.

It is time to create a better plan to combat homelessness that does not knowingly enable substance abusers to live right next to our neighborhoods; that does not compromise the safety, security and quality of life of any Bellevue resident; that is supported regionally, adequately sized and integrated into a community that can embrace the needs and services for a successful outcome; and that does not stifle/stunt economic viability and impede future growth of an area.

Let’s not create a dynamic of dissention between neighbors due to media context and misinformation. It’s time to get the facts straight. Our homeless population should not become victim to special interests and neither should our neighborhoods and churches. Please write to the council at council@bellevuewa.gov to let them know you look to them to represent all people in Bellevue when addressing the problem of homelessness.

Linda Nohavec

Bellevue

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