With 5,000 to feed every week, Cherry Street Food Bank seeks new home

After 35 years operating out of their space on 8th Ave and Cherry, the Cherry Street Food Bank is being displaced to make room for a new 30-story condominium tower. They’ve got until March 1, 2019 to vacate, and Northwest Harvest is scrambling to find a new home for their flagship operation which serves an average of 5,000 people a week.

Northwest Harvest CEO Thomas Reynolds considers the Cherry Street Food Bank the “beating heart” of their operations.

“We deliver to others who provide food but Cherry Street is a direct line to our most important stakeholder group: people with lived experience of hunger.” The food bank provides bags of groceries as well as sandwiches and other ready-to-eat meals for people who have no kitchen in which to prepare meals. Continue reading

Here are the Capitol Hill and Central District owners joining ‘301 small businesses’ speaking out against Seattle ’employment tax’ recommendations

Dani Cone of Cone and Steiner — and Fuel — made the list… twice (Image: CHS)

With a task force recommending a $75 million a year Seattle business tax for housing and homelessness services, a collection of “301 small businesses from every part of the city and every sector of the economy” has sent a letter to the City Council asking them not to move forward with the recommendation.

Several Capitol Hill and Central District businesses, highlighted in bold by CHS below, appear on the roster in the effort touted as “a purely organic grass roots effort and not organized by any one business association or advocacy group.”

“Small businesses across the city are writing to you today to urge you to reconsider the recommendations from the Progressive Revenue Taskforce on the Employee Hours Tax and any consideration of a proposed Employee Hours Tax legislation on Seattle businesses,” the letter begins. “We are disappointed that once again small business leaders were never consulted for input, facts or information about the real challenges we face.” Continue reading

‘Real progress’ — Task force recommends $75M Seattle business tax for housing and homelessness services

Seattle’s Progressive Revenue Task Force has finalized a set of recommendations for a so-called “head tax” that could raise $75 million a year to help create housing and provide homelessness services. UPDATE: The final report (PDF) released March 9th pushes the amount the city should raise to an estimated $150 million — $75 million of which would come from the head tax.

The recommendations were finalized last week in advance of a deadline legislated last year as the City Council agreed to back away from an earlier plan to tax large businesses a per-employee tax that would have raised only around $25 million per year.

“We believe it is imperative to raise a substantial amount of revenue -– enough to make a measurable and significant impact on the crisis –- so that the community sees tangible results from this new investment,” the task force report reads. “People are tired of half-measures and want to see real progress.” Continue reading

A demolition, a homeless camp, and townhouses: the 22nd Ave story of Cherry Hill Baptist Church

22nd Ave’s Cherry Hill Baptist Church — in the background, Tent City 3 has settled in across E Cherry

An 118-year-old Black church in the Central District lined up for demolition. A homeless encampment at the center of the city’s debate on how it should best approach providing housing to its residents most in need. A planned development that will build 14 townhouses that probably won’t be affordable but will help increase available stock in a booming city desperate for new housing. It’s a modern day Seattle story at 22nd Ave and Cherry.

Today, it’s mostly cold and wet. Tent City 3, recently moved in on church property behind the AM/PM and gas station at the corner, provides shelter to around 50 people. The New York Times just wrote about the camp and its most recent stay at Seattle Pacific University. “Some other cities grappling with homelessness, especially on the West Coast, have set aside places to allow camps or have opted not to enforce laws on outdoor camping for periods of time,” the New York Times remarks. “But the Seattle area went further into the experiment: It has, over the course of more than a decade, gradually allowed 11 camps to become permanent features of the landscape.”

The camps are also permanently on the move. Tent City 3 is now resident on land owned by Cherry Hill Baptist Church. Across the street, Pastor Willie Seals has big plans. Continue reading

17 things CHS heard at the Seattle Housing Gap meeting

(Image: CHS)

The Progressive Revenue Task Force charged with finding new source of funding to help address Seattle’s homelessness crisis is weeks away from releasing its recommendations and an important bottom line element: how much money can the task force dig up? Will it be enough? Earlier this week, Seattle City Council member Teresa Mosqueda gathered housing and homelessness experts and the Housing For All Coalition to move ahead on next steps to putting the money to work creating affordable housing in Seattle as quickly and efficiently as possible.

“It’s worth reminding ourselves that this is not a crisis because we don’t know what do do, it’s a manmade crisis of our own because we never invested the resources from the very start,” Alison Eisinger, executive director of the Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness, said Tuesday night during the “Seattle Housing Gap” panel at City Hall.

Headed by City Council member Lorena González, the revenue task force is on a legislated deadline: if it doesn’t deliver recommendations in March, the council will begin the process of imposing an employee head tax opposed by many of Seattle’s business communities.

Tuesday’s discussion was less about alternative sources of funding and more about the environment we’ve created for developing housing in Seattle. Here are some of the things CHS saw and heard during the panel:

  • How about some scary math to start? To build the apartment units required, the city and county would need an estimated $5.1 billion to permanently shelter the more than 30,000 individuals in the region in need, many of whom have extra needs in addiction recovery and mental health in addition to homelessness.
  • 6,300 homeless unsheltered individuals were counted within Seattle City limits during a one-night count last year.
  • Adding to her statements at a town hall last weekend that “we should not be selling city-owned land into the speculative real-estate market,” Rep. Nicole Macri talked about rezoning public land for development and progressive tax reform. Macri also has legislation in the House aimed at prohibiting income discrimination and protecting vulnerable groups who are not yet homeless.
  • “If you look at Seattle metro, more than 46.8% of renters spend more than 30% of their income on rent,” Macri said.
  • Macri’s House Bill 2578 would allow counties to bond against state sales tax revenue to finance their own infrastructure.
  • Katie Wilson of the Housing for all Coalition talked demographics: “Population is growing in high and low-income brackets, while affordable housing for those with incomes in the middle are being hollowed out — sorry this is so depressing,” Wilson said only ten minutes into the meeting. Continue reading

‘The Impatient Mayor’ — Durkan talks jobs, education, and housing in first State of the City address

Mixed in with strong statements on massive social issues and a look ahead at possible economic issues on the horizon, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan focused on three pillars for new initiatives in her first State of the City address Tuesday: jobs, education, and housing affordability.

“We believe we are all better off when prosperity is shared and is not just for the few,” Durkan said.

In her speech delivered at Rainier Beach High School, Durkan got the biggest round of applause for her new proposal to give free, year-round Orca transportation passes to all 15,000 high school students in the Seattle Public School system. Passes are currently provided by SPS to high school students who live farther than 2 miles from school and to about 3,000 income-eligible middle school and high school students. By fall, Durkan’s plan calls for King County Metro and the Seattle Department of Transportation to fund the new program. UPDATE: To clarify, the new initiative would fund cards for about 7,000 students not currently covered by the other programs.

Durkan also touted her Seattle Promise proposal to provide graduating Seattle public high school graduate free tuition to state community and technical colleges. Continue reading

City Council hosting ‘Seattle Housing Gap’ meeting

Tuesday night, Seattle City Council member Teresa Mosqueda will give over the meeting of her Housing, Health, Energy, and Workers’ Rights Committee to a special public hearing on Seattle’s housing gap:

On Tuesday, Feb. 20, a special meeting of the Housing, Health, Energy and Workers’ Rights Committee (HHEWRC) will find out. From 6 to 7:30 p.m., a panel composed of housing and homeless service providers and advocates will inform City Councilmembers what structural obstacles exist to creating enough affordable housing for everyone in Seattle, and what steps could be taken to overcome these challenges. A slide presentation will show how the loss of housing for very-low-income households is part of the broader affordability crisis. Discussion among panelists and Councilmembers will be followed by public comment. This event is hosted by Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda in collaboration with the Housing For All Coalition, and co-sponsored by Councilmembers Lisa Herbold, Mike O’Brien, and Kshama Sawant.

“Last fall the City Council passed Resolution 31782, expressing their intent to pass an Employee Hours Tax and use the revenue to ‘assist people who are homeless or at a high risk of becoming homeless in obtaining and retaining stable housing,'” an announcement on the hearing from the Housing For All Coalition reads. Continue reading

More Tiny Houses? Plan would create more ‘bridge housing’ in Seattle

The Central District’s “Tiny House Village” is one model for the proposed $5.5 million program

With the debate continuing at City Hall over moves to transition away from emergency shelter solutions, Seattle is moving forward with one small plan to build more so-called “tiny houses” in the city.

Wednesday, the Seattle City Council’s Finance and Neighborhoods Committee chaired by Sally Bagshaw will begin moving on a plan from Mayor Jenny Durkan to sell an $11 million city-owned South Lake Union property to fund an “Innovative Housing Strategy Subcabinet” tasked with increasing the city’s “capacity to quickly and cost-effectively move people experiencing homelessness” into “bridge shelter or bridge housing.”

The “bridge” options the cabinet will look at include “mass shelter tents, hard sided tents, wood-frame sheds, portable modular bunkhouses or cabins, backyard cottages, and the master leasing of existing apartments.” Continue reading

As City Hall pushes housing, Sawant to hold hearing on funding for emergency shelters

Kshama Sawant helps sell Real Change at Westlake Wednesday during #VendorWeek (Image: CHS)

District 3 representative Kshama Sawant is holding a public hearing Monday night as she calls on her cohorts in Seattle City Hall to restore funding to shelters that lost city contracts in recent rounds of budget belt tightening.

“Rents are out of control in Seattle, leading to a serious spike in homelessness,” Sawant writes. “In the midst of this crisis, the political establishment of this city is cutting funding to desperately needed homeless shelters and services.” Continue reading

Yes to SCS gears up campaign for ‘Safe Consumption Space’ in Seattle

A group of the city’s rockers will be at the heart of a new campaign to promote “safe consumption space” in Seattle.

Yes to SCS announced the start of a new outreach campaign Wednesday that will include musicians and Sub Pop CEO Megan Jasper intended to “highlight the lifesaving benefit of building a safe consumption space (SCS) in the City of Seattle.”

Seattle has $1.3 million allocated in its 2018 budget for studying and starting a safe consumption site in Seattle, addressing the location and costs for the site, who will pay for it, and how it will be run. Continue reading