Members and officials at an iconic Seattle church remain at odds over what to do with a property currently home to Capitol Hill’s only youth and young adult homeless shelter. While congregants at Mount Zion Baptist Church have reportedly voted down the latest offer to sell its 19th and Pine “annex” property, church officials do not appear ready to walk away from a deal.
Peace for the Streets by Kids from the Streets has been leasing its 19th and Pine home from Mt. Zion Baptist Church since 2014. Earlier this year the nonprofit offered to buy the property, in-part so it could expand to the building’s third floor where several dorm-style apartments are now being used for storage. PSKS was hoping to take over by August, but that timeline now appears to be shot.
PSKS director Susan Fox declined to comment on the status of the nonprofit’s $3 million offer and Pastor Aaron Williams did not return a request for comment.
Disagreements between the church officials, who are interested in selling the property, and some congregants, who either want to keep the building or wait for a better offer, have boiled over into heated arguments. One meeting in April ended with a congregant filing a complaint with police.
CHS previously reported on the $3 million sale agreement PSKS sent to Mount Zion. During a meeting on the offer in April, Pastor Williams cut off a congregant speaking out against the sale of the building, which the church acquired in 2007 for $2.1 million. Later, the two got into an argument which ended with Williams grabbing the woman’s arm, she told police.
The congregant went directly to the Seattle Police Department’s East Precinct at 12th and Pine to report Williams had assaulted her. Williams confirmed with police that the two did get into an argument
and he did grab her arm but denied grabbing her arm and said it was the woman who grabbed his arm. Police did not find probable cause for an assault. A King County judge did, however, grant the congregant a temporary protection order against Williams, which the judge later dropped.
CHS previously wrote about confusion and frustration at the church over the leadership’s efforts to buoy expenses by selling off several high value properties around the Central Area. The Seattle Medium has also reported on Mount Zion’s debt troubles, including a loan payment due next year.
Infighting at the predominantly African American church is also underpinned by an ongoing outcry over the Central Area’s sharp decline in African American residents and institutions.
Meanwhile, homelessness in Seattle remains at emergency levels. PSKS is still well short on funds to close a sale. House Speaker Frank Chopp helped bring back $1.5 million from Olympia for PSKS this year, but that still leaves the shelter another $1.5 million short. Fox previously said she was working with city and county officials to find matching funds. An additional $2 million for renovations would then need to be raised through a capital campaign run by PSKS, Fox said.
Founded in 1995 primarily as an advocacy group, PSKS grew into a shelter and community space, though it has struggled at times to keep the doors open. The nonprofit nearly shutdown in its previous location at Summit and Howell before the city stepped in to help it secure the the ground level of Mount Zion’s annex building.