February 11, 2:01 PM click here to comment > 1
Update on Plans for a Transitional Encampment
On Monday, I went to the Department of Transportation’s Sign and Signal Shop to meet with neighbors about our plans for a transitional encampment for unsheltered homeless individuals. We hope to set up the encampment on the site of the former Sunny Jim peanut butter factory, and our vision for the project will offer people the dignity of their own space, the practical necessity of a safe place to leave their belongings, and the kind of help that can help them become more self-sufficient. Neighbors raised good questions about what the project would look like and how we plan to implement it, and we look forward to the continuing conversation.
The Sunny Jim site is located at Adams Street, along Airport Way South. After a fire destroyed the factory last fall, safety concerns demanded that we clear the building’s foundation. The remaining concrete pad presents a large, flat open space with existing connections to water and power, which means residents will be able to use basic hygiene facilities in a structure like the ones used for temporary fire stations. Such a structure can be easily set up and taken down. The site will have controlled access and and its facilities limited to the use of residents, who will not exceed 100 in number. Captain Jim Dermody of the Seattle Police Department was in attendance and assured neighbors that the Department would continue to be available to work with them to ensure that any problems that might arise would be addressed.
Dannette Smith, the director of human services, explained the city’s approach in combining residential stability, community-building, and services to help people put the pieces in place to build more stable futures. The program will include a strong emphasis on self-governance and management, and residents will be expected to take responsibility for aspects of the the site’s operations and community. Professional “coaches” will be on staff to guide residents towards benefits, paths to housing, and skills training. It will function as a landing pad for homeless individuals who have difficulty, for whatever reason, accessing or succeeding in the current system of shelters.
Like many sites in Seattle, which has undergone many changes in land use over the 150 years of its existence, the Sunny Jim property does contain some contaminants. It tested positive in a 2009 study, which concluded that the low levels it reported did not appear to present a threat to human health. The city conducted a more detailed review of the site with the focus on determining the suitability of our proposal for the site. That review, which you can read HERE, concluded that the site did not present any major contaminant issues with regard to our project.
We believe strongly that this project can help people move towards more stable life situations, and although it is a small step when viewed in the context of the great challenge before us, it is worth doing. As we move forward, we will keep the public informed of the process and how to continue to play a role in that process. Community input, through meetings, letters, and emails, has improved our work in what is admittedly a different, but hopefully positive, approach to this issue.
Posted by: Deputy Mayor Darryl Smith