A business owner in Redmond sent me some information regarding furniture in the City Hall main entrance which I found a bit disturbing. Right around this time I happened into City Hall during the day and noticed that the furniture was ‘missing’, however the statuary (IMO not really “art”) was still visible.
An email dated June 10, 2016 from this business owner to the Mayor and City Council of Redmond reads: (spelling and grammar not corrected)
Subject: City of Redmond Day Center for the homeless
Mayor Marchione / City Council
Attached are photos of the City of Redmond 1st floor lobby. I first found out that the City of Redmond had removed their lobby furniture on May 25 from a UPS delivery man, he told me that it was sent out to be cleaned due to the homeless using the furniture and that the City was considering not putting the furniture back to discourage the homeless form using the lobby as a day center. On May 25 I went to City Hall to check for myself that the furniture was gone and it was. I went to the 2nd floor and spoke to a City Employee who confirmed that the furniture was removed due to the homeless using it. Then on the way out of City Hall I spoke to Jane Christenson from the mayors office and told her what I had heard, she said that they were not getting rid of the furniture that it was just sent out to be cleaned.
Yesterday I took the attached photos of the lobby to show that after more than two weeks the lobby furniture is still gone. It does not take over two weeks to clean furniture. I engaged in a conversation with a City employee that I never met before. After explaining who I was and engaging him in conversation I found out that the City has the lobby furniture in a room on the 1st floor (it is not still out being cleaned) and that the City is having meetings trying to decide what to do about the furniture.
At first I took pleasure in the fact that now the homeless problem was in City Hall, and every person that I have told about the City Hall Lobby problem has said good now they are getting to see what it is like. But then I got concerned that Colleen Kelly is advocating that The City of Redmond open a day center for the Homeless. The two reasons I believe that the City of Redmond is considering a day center for the homeless are one the attached Task Force Meeting document from May of this year (on page 2 in red) where Colleen notes that “April, 2016 – Day Center in Bellevue has closed for now: they lost their lease, which was very low cost, and their budget is not sufficient to cover a big increase in rent”. The second reason I believe that Colleen is pushing for a homeless day center in Redmond is the quote from the below article:
“These men need a place to be during the day,” said Colleen Kelley, the assistant director of community development in Redmond.
If you open a homeless day center in Redmond you should open it in the first floor lobby of City Hall and here are the reasons why:
1) The City Hall 1st floor lobby gets very little use, it is heated and air conditioned the Green thing to do with it is use it as a homeless day center since the space is currently just being wasted.
2) If City Hall is going to provide services that attract the homeless with the mind set that it is a good thing to help homeless that do not originate in Redmond, and as we all know based on the city interviews and police data 90% of the Redmond homeless is an imported problem. City Hall should live with the problem that they have helped create by providing shelter for the homeless in their own building. You could provide them a gas BBQ for cooking food just outside the back door of the lobby and allow people and business to donate food for the BBQ. Colleen could BBQ for them at lunch time. I will help solicit food donations for the BBQ, and maybe donuts for the morning if the city is short on funds. Some people in City Hall do not think that providing services will attract more homeless, lets test that thought by proving food and day shelter in the City Hall lobby.
3) If the City of Redmond helps open a Homeless Day Shelter in Redmond, all of the business and residents near that day shelter will be given the information in this email that will show part of the Cities motivation to open a day center for the homeless is to get the homeless out of the City Hall lobby. I guarantee you that if I do a survey of businesses to see if they would like to have a homeless day center open next to them or in the City Hall lobby they will overwhelmingly choose the City Hall Lobby.
4) Since City Hall seems to not want to crack down on drug use by the homeless, the City Hall Lobby is a perfect place because it is close to the river and the homeless only have to go a short distance to do drugs and drink near the river.
If you disagree with using the 1st Floor lobby of City Hall as a homeless day shelter please tell me why it is not a good location? If you plan to open one someplace else in the City please tell me why the near by businesses and residents should have to put up with the homeless problems of the shelter and City Hall should not have to put up with the problem? Do you think City employees are more important than private businesses and residents?
Mr. Rosenthal was answered by Mayor Marchione HIMSELF on June 11th:
Sent: Sat, Jun 11, 2016 12:12 pm
Subject: Re: City of Redmond Day Center for the homeless
Thank you for your continued interest in the issue of homelessness in Redmond. Homelessness is a problem that is overwhelming King County and Western Washington. Every jurisdiction is dealing with it and no jurisdiction is “inviting” homelessness to their City. Just because you repeat your opinion below over and over ad nauseam does not make it true.
What is accurate is that City officials want to work with the region to eliminate homelessness. I did not see any suggestions in your email that would help us accomplish this goal. Therefore we will not pursue any of your ideas.
The discussion about an Eastside Day Center is an idea about reducing homelessness in the region. At the end of April, the day center for single men operated in Bellevue by Congregations for the Homeless (CFH) had to close due to the church building they were using being sold. Because they had access to space at such a low cost, they have had a very difficult time finding another space they can afford, so no day center services have been available.
The City of Bellevue is working to secure an interim site for the men’s winter shelter until a permanent site is able to be established. The hope is that this site will also have space to accommodate the day center. There is a site being actively explored and Bellevue staff hopes to know whether or not it will work out sometime within the next month.
Mr. Rosenthal answered:
Sent: Thu, Jun 23, 2016 1:02 pm
Subject: Re: City of Redmond Day Center for the homeless
John Marchione / Redmond City Council
I checked on Tuesday night and the furniture is sill missing from the City Hall Lobby. Do you still have it locked away in the back room? Have you decided not to put it back out in the lobby because it attracts homeless person to the lobby?
Based on your reply below and your actions by removing the furniture in the City Hall lobby you do not want the homeless in or around City Hall. Some people would consider City Hall to be hypocrites for not allowing the homeless in the City Hall Lobby or Tent Camps on the grass next to City Hall and the Police Station.
I do think that for safety reasons you should encourage the homeless to stay in the City Hall Lobby and under the over hang in front of the City Hall Lobby instead of the Library. The reason it is safer for homeless to stay in the City Hall Lobby than the library is that there typically are no children in the City Hall lobby and there are a large number of children in the Library. If you provide access to your wireless Internet, access to the showers in the exercise facility during mid-morning and mid-afternoon when the city employees are not using them, and work with the library to ban anyone that is not following library rules (the library mite work with you if they knew that the banned persons could go to city hall), I believe that you could make the Library a safer place and get the homeless to hang out at City Hall Lobby. If you do not do something to make the Library safer and something happens to a child in the Library what will you tell the parent of that child? Will you tell then that you thought it was more important to keep the homeless out of the City Hall Lobby than the Library? Is there anyone on the Redmond City Council that cares about the safety of children at the Library more than they care about keeping the homeless out of the City Hall Lobby?
The attached photo was taken yesterday of the King County Administration Building at 500 4th Avenue in Seattle. It looks like they are allowing the homeless to camp next the County Building on County property, I may not agree with how the County and Seattle deal with the homeless but one thing that they have going for them is that they are not hypocrites. Instead of permitting tent cities at Education Hill, you should put the next tent city next to City Hall like the County has done in Seattle.
It is not just me that thinks City Hall has done things to attract homeless to Down Town Redmond. Recently when a Redmond Police officer was turning his car around in my parking lot I engaged him in conversation. I told him who I was and about the city homeless data that I had obtained from the City interviews and the police data. When I told him that in the city interviews 21 out of 21 homeless were not from Redmond and that 8 out of 21 were from out of state, he told me that a higher percent than that were from out of state. He also told me that the City of Redmond was doing more than any other East Side City to attract homeless persons. He seems pretty typical of the Redmond police that I have spoken to over the last couple of years on the street.
Last Friday I was told abut a UPS person was attacked by what is thought to be a homeless man with a knife that wanted his cell phone. The attack took place in the apartment complex adjacent to the senior center last winter. I wonder how safe that makes the senior’s feel? Has anyone from the City warned them about the dangers posed by the homeless?
Last Saturday I called 911 to have two Landing homeless trespassed on the bench next to the front door of my building at about 8:15 AM. When the police were there I advised the homeless that the City does not have a trespass sign up in from of their lobby and that they should hang out under the City Hall overhang. You do not have a problem with that advice, do you?
King County Admin Building 500 4th Ave (photo as PDF)
I will admit that I hadn’t thought about the connection to Mr. Rosenthal’s email until today when I received an answer from Council-member Stilin, the Ombudsperson of the month. My email was sent on June 23rd; Mr. Stilin answered on June 24th regarding the City Hall furniture. The responses on June 27th and today were regarding my construction question and are not included here as they are not about the City Hall furniture. I incorrectly stated that the “Senior center” was under construction when it is in fact, the Public Safety Building.
Sent: Thursday, June 23, 2016 4:42 PM
Subject: City Hall & Construction at Senior Center
I was at the City Hall building the other day and noticed that all the furniture in the lobby was gone! Wondering if there’s something planned for the space (other than the sculptures) or if there’s a reason for the furniture move?
I’m also curious about the plywood and construction/tape at the Senior Center? Whatever is going on will be a bit unattractive with Derby Days coming up in a couple weeks.
Could you fill me in on what’s going on?
Sent: Friday, June 24th, 2016 2:55 PM
Dear Ms. Norman,
Thank you for contacting the Redmond City Council with your concerns about the City Hall Lobby and the construction taking place at the Senior Center and Public Safety Building. I am responding as the Redmond City Council Ombudsperson for the month of June.
On City Hall, the furniture in the lobby was removed several weeks ago for cleaning as some of the chairs had become noticeably malodorous for City Hall visitors and for employees working in the Permit Center above the lobby. With the furniture removed, City staff have been evaluating the layout and potential use of first floor lobby space for a “one-stop” Customer Service Center, an ongoing study effort that is expected to conclude later this summer.
With regard to the Senior Center and Public Safety building construction, I am still waiting for information from public works on how those sites will be secured during Derby Days. I will provide a response to you as soon as I received that information.
THIS MORNING, I stopped by the library to pick up some items on hold. It was before 10, so I stood at the entrance with about 10 other people. While there, I noticed some young people and their belongings cluttering the entrance. It’s not the first time I’ve noticed people hanging around the outside of the library; except today it bothered me in light of the weather and recent conversations I’ve had with many Redmond residents.
Although these could be young adults who have a day off from work or school and are spending the day at the public library talking with friends, studying, looking for work or playing games; it is far more likely that these young adults are using the library as a “Day Shelter” until the night shelter opens up again.
According to the Task Force on Homelessness Final Report, “The Landing, a shelter for young adults aged 18-24 located in downtown Redmond”, is operated by Friends of Youth (p2). The Landing is the only shelter “for young adults (18-24) in all of East King County” (p5), even though we have a regionalized system for homelessness.
The shelters and other resources in the surrounding areas as identified by the Task Force are (p2):
- Congregations for the Homeless Day Center
- Camp Unity
- Avondale Park Shelter/Transitional Housing (Operated by Hopelink and Friends of Youth)
- The Sophia Way Shelter
- Open Kitchen Meal Program (Operated by Redmond United Methodist Church)
The Landing is open from 8:45 PM until 8:00 AM the following morning. From the “Friends of Youth” website:
“Line-up for the shelter is at 8:30 PM and intake begins at 8:45 PM. Guests are provided with dinner, showers, laundry service, clothing and breakfast in the morning. Guests may stay at the Landing up to 30 nights within a three-month period, with the possibility of extension. The Landing closes at 8:00 AM each morning.”
These young men and women spend their evenings in the shelter and then leave at 8 AM each morning to spend their days doing what? Accosting UPS drivers? Shoplifting from grocery stores? Playing video games?
Between the panhandlers on many corners around Redmond, the increase of loiterers in and around public buildings and spaces, and crimes that are directly or indirectly related to the homeless; is it any wonder the citizens of Redmond are irate about encampments and the increasing homeless and transient population? If you have the ability to play video games or hold a sign on a street corner ALL DAY LONG, you have the ability to work a job.
I think the Council and Mayor should begin to rethink their ‘strategy’ on reducing homelessness in our city. The current approaches don’t seem to be working; in fact, the populations seem to be increasing. The ‘gorilla’ is in the room now and is encroaching upon the furniture. If the “noticeably malodorous” condition of the lobby area requires that the City remove the furniture or send it for cleaning; however the furniture has not been returned in more than 2 weeks; either the City needs a new cleaning service or they need to lock the doors of City Hall.
It appears that the City is unwilling to offer City facilities for day uses for the homeless, however are more than willing to have them roam the streets, vandalize and damage public and business buildings or spaces. After all, we certainly can’t have the homeless spending their days loitering around in the chairs of City Hall! It would be embarrassing for the staff and Mayor to explain their presence to visiting dignitaries and developers interested in foisting more unaffordable housing on the city.
It’s better to have the homeless hidden inside the library building where they are only a threat to other patrons and library staff. Perhaps the groups standing in front of the Library with backpacks and luggage are only waiting for a bus, instead of idly hanging out. And let’s not forget those that have been ‘asked to leave’ after trespassing on private property; or those that repeatedly shoplift from retail establishments; because the Redmond Police Department is ‘discouraged’ from actually protecting the public as the City is concerned about possible litigation. Who cares about PUBLIC SAFETY, when it’s much more acceptable to give into the shaming by advocates who only want to help these poor, misunderstood people. Why not have them ‘temporarily’ encamped in Redmond’s most populated neighborhood area (See “Demographic Character link, Exhibit 4-3) instead of requiring that services and housing are more accessible?
Several recommendations have been made to work towards solutions; by the Task Force on Homelessness, business owners and by private citizens. The City needs to consider the safety of their residents by:
- Providing reliable Day Centers that protect both the homeless populace as well as residents and businesses in Redmond.
- Setting the standard by requiring developers to provide more than the minimum 10% of affordable housing in all projects.
- Using vacant / unused spaced in downtown Redmond to provide temporary housing, services and resources for homeless people.
If the City of Redmond is really interested in working toward a remedy for the ongoing homeless crisis; they have a long way to go to prove this to the tax-paying residents and business owners in Redmond.
May 4, 2016 Redmond Community Homelessness Task Force Meeting to Review Progress
Task Force on Homelessness — City of Redmond web page
Public Safety Building Renovation
Other City projects and plans
Task Force on Homelessness Final Report
Friends of Youth
Interview with residents of “The Landing”
COR Population “Demographic Character”
King County Administration Building encampment