Op-Ed - an open letter to the Shoreline City Council - do not adopt Planning Commission amendments re homeless

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

COL (ret) Bill Barnsdale is retired military as well as a sheriff in California for many years. Currently Junior Warden (Buildings / Grounds) at St Dunstan’s Episcopal Church in Shoreline, he has a unique perspective in working with the homeless - both positive and negative.

Dear Shoreline City Council,

Bottom Line Up Front: Please do not adopt the Planning Commission’s amendments regarding the local encampment ordinance as to be submitted on or about January 30th. They will make Shoreline an unwelcoming place for transitional encampments and for the people experiencing homelessness in general.

I am writing on behalf of St Dunstan’s Episcopal Church to ask that the Council revise the proposed amendments to the Shoreline zoning code regarding transitional encampments (Temp Use Permits) before they are adopted by the City Council. 

St Dunstan’s Church has hosted three camps since 2011, and provides direct support for up to five homeless camps in the Region each week since 2012. We happen to work closely with Greater Seattle Cares.

We are very concerned about the welfare of those Shoreline residents who find themselves homeless. 

We were delighted to see the Council’s Resolution 379, directing the Planning Commission to review the zoning laws to lower barriers for the homeless. That’s exactly as is should be.

Unfortunately the language / amendments as submitted by the Planning Commission to you do not reflect the spirit of your directive.

First: a Temp Use Permit application should be required of the Host (typically the local church) each time an encampment seeks a new home. That’s the way business is done now. A Temp Use Permit should not be required or submitted by the members of the encampment.

Second: the proposed Planning Commission’s language essentially disallows backyard encampments, which is without doubt the Commission’s intent. They also make it harder for structured transitional encampments to find any hosts in Shoreline. As we see it, churches, non-profits and government property should all be exempt from the proposed 20 foot setbacks in the draft ordinance language. If the 20 foot setback remains in the ordinance language, all but three Shoreline churches would no longer be able to act as a Host.

Homeless camp at St Dunstan's
Photo courtesy St Dunstan's

Third: the unclear definition of a Managing Agency needs to be removed from the amendments. In effect the proposed language attempts to make the encampment Host churches a “Management Agency” responsible for the day-to-day behavior or conduct within the camps. That’s all actually done by the member-leadership of the encampments. Otherwise, like any other citizen, campers are subject to direction from County Social Services and local fire and police employees.

Fourth: I believe that each Permit Application should have an attached list of campers by full name, date of birth, place of birth, Washington State Driver’s License Number or Social Security Account Number. The City should send one copy to the King County Dispatch Center (as required by the County Ordinance) and (add this section) send one copy to the Shoreline PD’s Patrol Division Commander. The purpose of these lists is to allow the Dispatch Center to clear the residents as not being pedophiles, and that they have no pending “wants and warrants”. (The encampment neighbors want to know this.) Both Dispatch and the local Patrolmen should have a copy of the encampment membership list.

St Dunstan’s Vestry and Congregation strongly support the alternative language as submitted by Greater Seattle Cares (GSC) in an email on January 22, 2017.

Please do not adopt the pending language amendments as submitted by your Planning Commission. They will make Shoreline an unwelcoming place for transitional encampments and for the people experiencing homelessness in general.

COL (ret) Bill Barnsdale


Anonymous,  January 25, 2017 at 6:05 PM  

This letter is a prime example of the kind of emotionally manipulative language, lies, and guilt trip that people aren't buying into anymore. "They will make Shoreline an unwelcoming place for transitional encampments and for the people experiencing homelessness in general." Shoreline has been an *overwhelmingly welcome* place for homeless encampments on church grounds since their inception. To accuse Shoreline of not being welcome to the homeless is deceitful. To accuse those who are *supportive* of encampments at churches, but not in backyards and parks of being anti-homeless and hateful is disingenuous.

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