Time is running out for the residents of SHARE Safe Haven. After three years of living in the federal INS building in SoDo (above), they were kicked out last month-- an unfortunate consequence of the sprawling 77,000-square-foot space being purchased by a group of Seattle developers and investors last spring. Safe Haven's 30 homeless men and women were able to find temporary space at St. James Cathedral on First Hill, but their arrangement for sleeping there ends Aug. 25th. Unless somebody steps up, they'll be on the street in less than a month.
The shelter is a nighttime, emergency-only operation that's been able to find space in and around Pioneer Square for 14 years. The group is self-managed. Walk-ins are not admitted. Occupants are screened at a separate location and organizers ensure that they arrive no earlier than 7 p.m. and disperse before 8 a.m. each day. Sobriety is required. No daytime loitering is allowed.
Safe Haven residents have spent months writing letters to everyone from city, county and port officials, to property owners like Qwest Field and Harborview Medical Center. Either they've received no response, or they've simply been told "No."
"Unfortunately, I must tell you that there is no county property that can meet your needs at this time," King County Executive Ron Sims said in a letter dated July 7. And Alan Painter, interim director of Seattle's Human Services Department, encouraged Safe Haven residents to keep their search "as broad as possible, including alternatives outside City property and in other neighborhoods," before reminding them that "annually the City of Seattle spends more than $40 million to fight homelessness"-- and that the mayor's Ten-Year Plan to end Homelessness is making progress.
The people who depend on Safe Haven aren't giving up hope yet. Though it may take 30 more people sleeping under the interstate-- and not carefully crafted letters-- to get this town's attention.