SHARE, Seattle Housing and Resource Effort, held a neighborhood notification meeting on Sunday at the Gift of Grace Lutheran Church (2102 North 40th Street). This SHARE indoor shelter will begin providing housing for a minimum of five and up to fifteen co-ed residents starting this Wednesday September 15th from 7pm to 7am, seven days a week. The shelter residents will occupy the second and third floors of the church and will be required to arrive and leave by the designated hours. Entrance will be through the west side door of the church. SHARE provides two bus tickets per day for transportation to and from the shelter site. Out of the fifteen indoor shelters, there are three that allow registered sex offenders to be residents. These are non-residential locations and do not include the Wallingford shelter.
I attended the meeting, along with many members of the community, parents and staff of Huckleberry Forest Preschool, Gift of Grace parishioners, and SHARE staff and residents. Members of the media from Fox 13 News and King 5 were also in attendance. Gift of Grace pastor and meeting facilitator, Jami Fecher, started the meeting with a moment of silence, then reviewed the goals of the meeting: to receive information from SHARE about the organization and its plans for the shelter, hear and respond to concerns, and attempt to address concerns. Given the level of neighborhood concern, the meeting went well past time, lasting over three hours.
SHARE residents Lantz, Wendell, and Alex took turns presenting an overview of the organization and its charter, the homeless situation in Seattle, and how SHARE shelters operate. Then the attendees were permitted to ask clarifying questions. Most of the questions centered around the insufficient notification process by the both the church and SHARE to the community, concern over the screening process for shelter residents, the impact to the preschool, and uncertainty regarding ongoing communications with and inclusion of the Wallingford community in the current and potentially long-term presence of the shelter. The latter issue came to a head when it was suggested by Pastor Fecher that non-church community members could join the congregation to gain more of a voice as the decision-making process to bring the shelter in was done internally by the church. This prompted some heated debate between church and non-church community members, causing several meeting attendees to leave.
Currently, the agreement signed between the church and SHARE is a one year term that is renewable. According to Fecher, the church is not receiving any monetary compensation from either SHARE or the city. SHARE members, however, have agreed to help clean the inside and outside of the church. Fecher and the SHARE staff member present stated that the agreement between the two parties is public information and will be shared with the community.
As stated on the website, SHARE is not a social service agency, but rather, a self-help group. There are no staff members in the shelters and the residents practice a philosophy of self-management, which includes having residents conduct the screening process for other potential residents and management of the shelters themselves. Each of the shelters uses an election process by which one lead and one assistant lead help to provide an internal management structure. There are also rules of conduct that govern the shelter residents and are the base of the agreement between SHARE and Gift of Grace.
The list of 37 conduct rules include the following:
- There is absolutely no loitering in the neighborhood during non-shelter hours.
- No participant can enter the shelter after 9pm.
- There are no in-and-out privileges. Once you sign in, you are in for the night.
- No drugs or alcohol are allowed on church property.
- No theft, destruction of property of the church, neighborhood, or [harm to] shelter participants will be tolerated.
These rules of conduct are also the basis of the screening process done by SHARE residents for the purpose of screening other potential residents. The screens are conducted once per person, at the downtown SHARE office Monday through Saturday. According to SHARE, there are no additional checks incorporated into the screening process such as background checks for criminal history or inclusion on the sexual offense registry and official identification is not required. It was stated by a SHARE staff member that a government agency (either the Department of Corrections or Sheriff’s Department) regularly notifies SHARE’s main office if any registered level II or III sex offenders list SHARE as their place of residence. When asked if the church had inquired about or requested that SHARE conduct background checks as part of their screening process, Pastor Fecher stated that the church doesn’t conduct or require background checks on its other tenants and didn’t see a reason to deviate from its standard practice.
When asked by an attendee, SHARE stated that there is not a standardized list of offenses that would bar an applicant from becoming a SHARE resident, but there are general categories of concern such as violence, or drug and alcohol use along with breaking individual shelter rules, that would potentially raise a red flag. A resident may be barred from an individual shelter for a night or longer period of time by fellow shelter residents or may be barred from one, several or all SHARE shelters by the SHARE bar committee that meets every two weeks to review complaints. Most of these complaints will stem from a violation of the rules of conduct.
That said, if a problem at the shelter is confirmed, the shelter will close the next evening and will reopen only after the problem is resolved if:
- Drugs, drug paraphernalia, or alcoholic beverage containers are found and no one is identified and held accountable.
- The shelter space is left in a disorderly/unclean state.
- Community residents accurately report loitering or neighborhood disruptions by shelter participants.
- Destruction, vandalization or theft of church or neighborhood property occurs.
- A pattern of rule violations occurs.
In addition to the inadequate notification and lack of community involvement and outreach, the other large issues seem to be related to weak screening processes used by SHARE and the co-location of the shelter and the existing preschool. Particularly given that the Ballard SHARE location closed after the discovery of a level III sex offender, attendees wanted to know how both SHARE and the church would mitigate against such risks. Those key issues were discussed, but not addressed through action plans by either the church or SHARE, and thus, remain open items and lingering worries for local residents.
At the suggestion of a church neighbor, Pastor Fecher did agree to initiate a broader “steering committee,” to include representatives from all four interested parties: the church, SHARE, the Wallingford community, and the preschool. Details regarding the steering committee were not given but a list was passed around so that attendees could sign up for email updates from Fecher, the first of which will go out by Thursday September 16th.
If you were unable to attend the meeting today and you have general questions about the SHARE organization, questions about this shelter location, or need to make an incident report, please call the SHARE office at (206) 448-7889. If you have questions for the Gift of Grace church as it relates to the SHARE shelter, or would like to be added to the email communications list, contact Pastor Jami Fecher at (206) 226-5299.