1. The city’s plan to move about 40 people living temporarily at Seattle Center’s Exhibition Hall into a longtime shelter nearby has hit a snag.
Intruders have repeatedly broken into the Seattle City Light-owned building, formerly the site of DESC’s 100-bed Queen Anne Men’s Shelter, while it has been unoccupied during the pandemic. The break-ins include at least two incidents that resulted in calls to the Seattle Police Department.
The building was supposed to reopen as a shelter this week for some of the 70 or so people being displaced from Exhibition Hall, which opened as a temporary “deintensification” shelter during the pandemic and is set to close permanently at the end of this month. Instead, the city says they’re still assessing the damage and deciding how to clean up the mess.
According to a police report on April 28, officers responding to a call about some “high/intox[icated]” people occupying the building discovered that “numerous” people “had barricaded the front door with assorted items [so that] the doors would not be able to be opened.”
In addition to “debris and garbage” and “biohazards” (a common euphemism for human waste), a spokeswoman for Seattle City Light said that “the status of various mechanical and electrical elements of the building need additional assessment.” Camille Monzon-Richards, the director of the Seattle Indian Center—which was supposed to take over the building from DESC this month—was more direct. “Vandals broke in and pretty much obliterated the place,” she said.
It’s unclear how people initially accessed the building, which is now patrolled by Phoenix Security, a private security firm. According to a police report on April 28, officers responding to a call about some “high/intox[icated]” people occupying the building discovered that “numerous” people “had barricaded the front door with assorted items [so that] the doors would not be able to be opened.” The supervisor of the building said he told the people inside that they weren’t allowed to be there, and that they responded that “The Exhibition Hall [shelter] said we could be in here.”
“No subjects exited willingly,” the report continues. “A building search was conducted and all the subjects trespassing inside were removed and identified.”
Despite the security patrols, people continued to access and occupy the onetime shelter, resulting in at least two more calls to police in May and June.
The real estate and developer-funded campaign used similar “we shall overcome”-style rhetoric in another recent email.
Noah Fay, director of housing programs at DESC, said his agency is working to find shelter spots for every person who’s been staying at Exhibition Hall, including DESC’s Navigation Center in the International District. “We’re actively securing spots for them,” Fay said, and “we’re quite confident we’ll have a spot that’s going to work for everyone,” either at the Navigation Center or at another site, such as a new Salvation Army congregate shelter inside a former Tesla dealership in SoDo.
It’s unclear when the Queen Anne shelter might be habitable again. “Early estimates indicate it will take weeks for this work to be completed,” the City Light spokeswoman said. The city would not confirm that the Seattle Indian Center will take over the space once repairs are completed, although both Fay and Monzon-Richard said that was the plan.
2. The million-dollar Compassion Seattle campaign continued to portray itself as a besieged underdog this week, sending a message to supporters urging them to collect as many signatures as possible for the charter amendment on homelessness by this Friday, the deadline for the group to gather 33,000 valid signatures from registered Seattle voters.
The proposed charter amendment would require the city to spend 12 percent of its general fund on human services and, without any new funding, stand up 2,000 new “emergency or permanent housing” units within one year.
It’s unclear whether the campaign is having trouble gathering signatures in Seattle. As of the most recent reporting date, May 31, the campaign had spent about $184,000 on paid signature gatherers, but that number will be substantially higher next month, since the campaign was only cleared to start gathering signatures in late May.
The email to supporters claims the campaign has been the victim of “a steady stream of disingenuous attacks from every corner of the political spectrum, peppered with hyperbole, falsehoods, and even violence against our team.”
As we reported earlier this month, the real estate and developer-funded campaign used “we shall overcome”-style rhetoric in another recent email, in which they claimed that people have repeatedly attacked its signature gatherers, “most young women of color,” and encouraged supporters to “persevere.”