First Hill residents give blessings to 24/7 homeless shelter at First Presbyterian

By Brandon Macz
5/23/2017 12:27 PM

While organizers of a 24/7 homeless shelter at Seattle First Presbyterian Church had braced themselves for pushback, First Hill residents provided mostly words of support Monday night, as well as questions about how it will work.

“I’d like to say that poor people are not bad people,” said Alice Wesley, a resident of the Skyline at First Hill. “I know that because I used to be poor. I wasn’t bad then, and I’m not bad now.”

Wesley was one of several residents who came with signs of support, identifying themselves as part of the First Hill Y.I.M.B.Y (Yes In My Back Yard) Group. They also provided 22 letters of support for the 100-bed shelter, which is slated to open in the lower half of the church in August.

First Hill Plaza resident Helen Goehring said she thinks the low-barrier shelter, operated by Compass Housing Alliance, will make the neighborhood safer. She said she’s frightened for the people she sees sleeping on benches or talking to themselves on the street, adding it’s also scary for her.

Not scared away by the homeless population in First Hill are developers, said Suzanne Hittman, another Skyline at First Hill resident. She added they’re also not constructing affordable housing in their new, big buildings.

First Hill has Therapeutic Health Services, a major hospital that also provides mental health and substance abuse assistance, plus a program that helps people recently released from prison, Hittman said.

“The First Hill neighborhood is a welcoming neighborhood,” she said, “and we would like to bring this message to Laurelhurst, Magnolia, West Seattle…” and so on.

Seattle First Presbyterian began talks with Compass Housing about using its large space in the lower half of the church back in January, said Pastor Heidi Husted Armstrong.

“For us, as people of faith, it seemed like God was smack dab in the middle of this thing,” she said during the community discussion on May 22. “There are a lot of things that we can’t do here, but that we can do, and we are honored and humbled to be a part of this partnership.”

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