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GaryP

Shelters and Missions

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Gary P

I share the same concern. I'm a paramedic in G.R. and spend way to much time (and you are all spending way too much of your hard-earned money) dealing with these bums in the heartside area. Some of them are hilarious and a lot of fun to talk to but others are downright scumbags. I've been assaulted more times then I can count by these guys. My partner, a single mother of three, is finally able to stop covering up her black-eye with make-up. I'm sure her daughters were proud that their mother got beat-up by a drunk downtown.

I don't know what business owner is going to be attracted to an area like Heartside. Even if they know that these guys usually aren't any trouble, the average customer doesn't. Why would the average person choose to live, or shop, where they have to deal with bums peeing on their doorstep when they have other options? Look at Heartside park? How many families and kids do you see playing there. It's become a meeting ground and campground for the homeless.

Please don't get me wrong...I'm not evil and without compassion. I'm a financial supporter of Mel Trotter. I do wonder, though, if we need to move these facilities somewhere.

It's not actually just the homeless though. Many of the unemployed (also living off you and me) that live in second floor apartments on S. Division also spend all day loitering on the street. While they aren't dangerous they still create a very unattractive business climate.

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I'm torn on this issue. I come accross many of these people during my shift and many of them are good, smart people that are just going through a rough patch. I have a close friend that is staying at the Herkner(sp?) who is there because she lost her job and had to leave her Hertige Hill apartment. She is the far from being a street person. I also have a uncle that is a total drunk that hangs around the various missions doing nothing but taking up space. So I guess it's hard for me to say that I would like to see the missions/shelters move away, even though they attract true bums, because they do indeed help people who are desprate and hurting. The fact that they are in/near the downtown area is a huge plus for them because their trasportation options are little to none.

I do believe that the missions in the area need to take a greater role in upkeep and safty of the Heartside area. They are the sole reason that we have a large concentration of homeless in that part of the city and from what I've seen, they make almost no effort in either. Some of the buildings used as shelters are poorly kept and are surrounded with trash from the homeless residents. It is also very difficult to walk down the street without being asked for money so the asker can "catch a bus". Me, and the Miss. used to go to "My Video Shop" often when it was on Jefferson. Now that it is on S. Division, we have gone little in the past few months because after the shelters are closed for the night, many of the people on the streets still are oftern the more seedy of the bunch. It just does'nt feel safe. I understand that it not all the shelters doing, but too many times it feels like these places could care less if Heartside feels and looks like heck as long as they feel good for helping a few people, then its all worth it. Do any of you remember who was one of the biggest opponets to the Van Andel Arena before it was built? It was the homeless missions that felt that the arena would scare away homeless people from the Heartside area. They would rather have kept the area a total dump then to "scare" a few homeless! We have clearly seen that they were totally off the mark. It's good to see many developers since the arena have gone into the area despite the problems. the missions will have to become more responsible for the climate that they help to create if that part of the city will ever become more than skid row GR.

But then again, what do I know. B)

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Missions on South Division don't have to be problematic. It is the hanging out front by its temporary residents that creates a problematic "human eyesore".

An obvious solution would be to create lush rooftop parks/gardens on top of the missions - complete with 12' ornate wrought iron fences (to prevent falling/jumping), trees, grass, patio stones, barbecue grills, pools, etc. - and then require those using the mission that want to "hang" outside to do so on the now lush roof. Besides removing the "human eyesore" from the street level, such roof gardens would contribute to cooling off the building, the surrounding downtown area as well as cycling carbon dioxide from vehicular traffic to oxygen.

That is the only way I see missions being able to coexist with all the desirable upscaling and gentrification of the South Downtown Division Corridor.

Now replacing free food/shelter giveaways (that do nothing but create dependency) with free food/shelter swaps for education/job training, drug-treatment or psychological treatment is another - but associated - matter. Somebody start that thread if I'm not the only one on that tip.

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I have been all over the country, and I have yet to see a city that does not have homeless people bumbling about, except in the "touristy" areas. I think we have to just get used to them until they are outnumbered and blend in a lot more, or move further South down Division. There will always be some area that is "bum-central", but I don't think that Division or Heartside will be that area much longer. The architecture along South Division is just too unique to stay blighted forever.

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Now replacing free food/shelter giveaways (that do nothing but create dependency)

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

You're absolutely right Metrokid...

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I come accross many of these people during my shift and many of them are good, smart people that are just going through a rough patch. I have a close friend that is staying at the Herkner(sp?) who is there because she lost her job and had to leave her Hertige Hill apartment. She is the far from being a street person.

Its people like this that can really help to create a neighborhood, but with the constant presence of Mel Trotter and such will it be possible?

Look at Michigan Hill; combine Spectrum, the VAI, and GVSU and within a few years you get almost a million new square feet of medical office space developed by the private sector. Does the same thing happen down on South Division, but in a negative way?

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Its people like this that can really help to create a neighborhood, but with the constant presence of Mel Trotter and such will it be possible? 

Look at Michigan Hill; combine Spectrum, the VAI, and GVSU and within a few years you get almost a million new square feet of medical office space developed by the private sector.  Does the same thing happen down on South Division, but in a negative way?

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

I'd say the trend of gentrification on Michigan isnt being matched by disinvestment on Division. If anything both areas are facing gentrification. The homeless are being pushed mostly in between the corners of Wealthy, and Cherry, and being squeezed in ever more tightly by further gentrification. There are alos areas of homelessness outside of that small pocket. I used to work at a place off of Hall street near the railyards, and they were there too, although not nearly as much as on division. If you were to propose the missions moving somewhere that might be the best spot for them to move. Otherwise, I wouldn't worry too much about it, It doesn't seem to be affecting investment into the area.

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I dont think those shelters are bad for any area, but when there are a whole bunch of them concentrated in one area, like on South Division, it will be hard to re-hab that part of town with new businesses, etc.

While it does look bad to see them sitting on the sidewalk, but I dont think that simply getting them on a roof or inside is going to help that area to rehab itself. I think that when you have only one principal "use" in an area that its a bad thing because the only businesses that can make it are the ones that directly appeal to those patronizing that "use", whatever it is.

It would be a good thing if some of those missions moved somewhere else, but I would be surprised if that happened because like anything else, they go where the "business" is.

A food/shelter in exchange for education, training, rehab program is a fantastic idea, by the way.

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I dont think those shelters are bad for any area, but when there are a whole bunch of them concentrated in one area, like on South Division, it will be hard to re-hab that part of town with new businesses, etc.

While it does look bad to see them sitting on the sidewalk, but I dont think that simply getting them on a roof or inside is going to help that area to rehab itself.  I think that when you have only one principal "use" in an area that its a bad thing because the only businesses that can make it are the ones that directly appeal to those patronizing that "use", whatever it is.

It would be a good thing if some of those missions moved somewhere else, but I would be surprised if that happened because like anything else, they go where the "business" is.

A food/shelter in exchange for education, training, rehab program is a fantastic idea, by the way.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

I'm going to try and be careful how I say this, but aren't most of the homeless people today basically the mentally ill that don't have state run mental hospitals where they should be. My Mother in Lansing does a lot of work with the missions there, and she says that is the main problem. Most of the "homeless" aren't able to work, and should be hospitalized.

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Thats a good point. I spent a lot of time when I was in college doing little bits of work in that area, and I would say at least half of those whom I encountered appeared to have a mental issue. But I'm not a psychiatrist either. I think if there were more mental hospitals around there would be far fewer homeless in the streets.

However, a good deal of those people appeared to be perfectly capable of working in some capacity, but they were just asking me for money

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Moving the bums out of Heartside has been fought tooth and nail in the past. The common moniker for those that want to actually improve the neighborhood - is racist. This creates a huge block to actually getting anything positive done as no one really wants to be called a racist.

Until people can see that there is a risk to everyone else, and there is greater economic potential in the neighborhood, the dicsussion will be pretty much off limits. As it has been since the bums moved in decades ago.

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Moving the bums out of Heartside has been fought tooth and nail in the past.  The common moniker for those that want to actually improve the neighborhood - is racist.  This creates a huge block to actually getting anything positive done as no one really wants to be called a racist.

Until people can see that there is a risk to everyone else, and there is greater economic potential in the neighborhood, the dicsussion will be pretty much off limits.  As it has been since the bums moved in decades ago.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

What is really irritating is that it is not a black/white issue. There are bums of every variety down there. I hope if they build a big residential development at fulton and division where the parking ramp used to be, it will spur some investment moving south on division. That may be just wishful thinking though...

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What is really irritating is that it is not a black/white issue.  There are bums of every variety down there.  I hope if they build a big residential development at fulton and division where the parking ramp used to be, it will spur some investment moving south on division.  That may be just wishful thinking though...

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

I think the vision for Heartside is that these different groups of people (lower income, upper income, artists, homeless, etc.) will all live in harmony together. But I have yet to see that actually work anywhere. The big problem that downtown Seattle is having right now (from what I hear) is the shear number of homeless people and kids on the street, and it is driving businesses and people out of downtown.

Welcome, by the way, andy112129 and GaryP.

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I think the vision for Heartside is that these different groups of people (lower income, upper income, artists, homeless, etc.) will all live in harmony together.  But I have yet to see that actually work anywhere.  The big problem that downtown Seattle is having right now (from what I hear) is the shear number of homeless people and kids on the street, and it is driving businesses and people out of downtown.

Welcome, by the way, andy112129 and GaryP.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Thanks for the welcome, GrDAD. I think the "vision" of which you speak is a nice idea, but in reality, as you pointed out, it fails. A lot of people desperately want the homeless and bums to be good, smart, upstanding people who are just having a bad day, but, many are rough people in rough shape, addicted to drugs, alcohol, etc. While some of them are indeed good folks, many have too many problems to deal with on thier own and they need help.

That kind of vision will never work when there is such a disproportionately high number of homeless as there is in heartside. I've encountered homeless people and panhandlers in Eastown too, but Eastown is largely considered the best neighborhood in GR, and a big part of the vitality of Eastown is that there is a healthy mix of people and businesses. Currently, there are too many homeless people in Heartside to acheive such a balance.

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I think the vision for Heartside is that these different groups of people (lower income, upper income, artists, homeless, etc.) will all live in harmony together. But I have yet to see that actually work anywhere. The big problem that downtown Seattle is having right now (from what I hear) is the shear number of homeless people and kids on the street, and it is driving businesses and people out of downtown.

Welcome, by the way, andy112129 and GaryP.

The theory of rich people living along side of lower income people in my opinion is a good one. Both groups of people can definitely learn a lot from each other. But can a theory like this actually stand the test of time?

In Chicago the city and a private developer teamed up together on a project to integrate people from different income levels. It was built on part of the former Canbrini-Green(sp) low-income high-rises sites, which was close enough to Michigan Ave that people of well-to-do people wanted to live there. The project mandated that there be space for low and no income people as well as selling $500,000 town homes. So far the project hasn

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Great topic GaryP!

I love the idea of a mixed socio-economic development that integrates people from all income levels. I have read about several strategies for doing this including government subsidizing some of some of the units, keeping them rent-capped apartments, or capping property value from increasing on certain units.

However, I question who picks up the loss on the project? The city? the developer? the "rich people" in the building? I just don't see how this can be a viable option for profit-seeking developers and cities. Is there an incentive aside from doing what is right?

Does anyone have ideas of how to do this successfully? Its not like the city has tons of extra money laying around to invest in mixed-use subsidized housing.

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Great topic GaryP!

I love the idea of a mixed socio-economic development that integrates people from all income levels. I have read about several strategies for doing this including government subsidizing some of some of the units, keeping them rent-capped apartments, or capping property value from increasing on certain units.

However, I question who picks up the loss on the project? The city? the developer? the "rich people" in the building? I just don't see how this can be a viable option for profit-seeking developers and cities. Is there an incentive aside from doing what is right?

Does anyone have ideas of how to do this successfully? Its not like the city has tons of extra money laying around to invest in mixed-use subsidized housing.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

The way I understand the current setup in subsidized housing, is that the tenant pays a low rent, say 200 a month on a 500 a month unit. the subsidiary (usually gov't at some level) pays the remaining 300. As the tenant's income goes up, as one assumes it would, the subsidiary begins to pay a smaller portion of the rent and the tenant's rent begins to increase until finally, the tenant is paying his/her own way. The developer still gets all their money, but in the end, the subsidiary is out the money, in theory. But the idea is that the tenet now is making more money, and they will pay more income tax that will help compensate the subsidiary, I guess. Does that sound right to anyone else?

What I don't like about this method is that it sort of encourages people to be lazy so they don't have to pay much rent but they still get the same living environment. I don't know if there is a good, profitable way to do it though.

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Great topic GaryP!

I love the idea of a mixed socio-economic development that integrates people from all income levels. I have read about several strategies for doing this including government subsidizing some of some of the units, keeping them rent-capped apartments, or capping property value from increasing on certain units.

However, I question who picks up the loss on the project? The city? the developer? the "rich people" in the building? I just don't see how this can be a viable option for profit-seeking developers and cities. Is there an incentive aside from doing what is right?

Does anyone have ideas of how to do this successfully? Its not like the city has tons of extra money laying around to invest in mixed-use subsidized housing.

Thanks!

Rent control is a bad idea. I have heard stories from NY where building owners with truly nasty tactics (things like removing stairs from the building) just to get people to move out so rents can be raised.

I think the best way for a project like this to get done is by using the city's financing options. I not sure exactly how some of these things work, but I think things like issuing tax free bonds and giving TIF tax credits can really make a project feasible.

The City or State could then trade these options for guarantees that a portion of the project is only for use by people under a certain income level.

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Great topic GaryP!

I love the idea of a mixed socio-economic development that integrates people from all income levels. I have read about several strategies for doing this including government subsidizing some of some of the units, keeping them rent-capped apartments, or capping property value from increasing on certain units.

However, I question who picks up the loss on the project? The city? the developer? the "rich people" in the building? I just don't see how this can be a viable option for profit-seeking developers and cities. Is there an incentive aside from doing what is right?

Does anyone have ideas of how to do this successfully? Its not like the city has tons of extra money laying around to invest in mixed-use subsidized housing.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Anne, you're back! I was hoping you didn't get the boot ;) One issue I see with this concept though, is that for most people, if you are going to invest $250 - $500,000 for a condo downtown, you want it to be a good investment, and you are probably worried about re-sale (rightfully so). Call it elitism, but if you are checking out a condo project and have to fight "street people" just to get to the front door, that would deter even the most progressive individual from buying there. Call it human nature, but people tend to gravitate toward other people in the same socioeconomic status.

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I'm going to try and be careful how I say this, but aren't most of the homeless people today basically the mentally ill that don't have state run mental hospitals where they should be.  My Mother in Lansing does a lot of work with the missions there, and she says that is the main problem.  Most of the "homeless" aren't able to work, and should be hospitalized.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Absolutely not. Many of these individuals are perfectly capable of working but the alcohol keeps them on the street.

We have more mental health resources than we know what to do with. I can't tell you how much of my average shift is hauling these guys around as they abuse the system. They're in the ER's three to four times a week for food. Why didn't they eat at Degage today? The food was too greasy they tell me.

If they is a true, significant, underlying mental health diagnoses they get all the help they need.

These guys are far from mentally ill. They're brilliant and they just prefer to use the systems that are in place and stay on the booze. As long as it's this easy for them to live off of you and me there's no incentive to dry up.

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Absolutely not.  Many of these individuals are perfectly capable of working but the alcohol keeps them on the street. 

We have more mental health resources than we know what to do with.  I can't tell you how much of my average shift is hauling these guys around as they abuse the system.  They're in the ER's three to four times a week for food.  Why didn't they eat at Degage today?  The food was too greasy they tell me.

If they is a true, significant, underlying mental health diagnoses they get all the help they need. 

These guys are far from mentally ill.  They're brilliant and they just prefer to use the systems that are in place and stay on the booze.  As long as it's this easy for them to live off of you and me there's no incentive to dry up.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

This is an interesting conversation. I think we are all in agreement that we need to help to folks who truly need the help.

I think that when these folks, with or without mental problems, are surrounded by squalor and a dirty, decayed city district, they don't necessarily "see" the benefit of hard work, kicking an addiction, etc. Rather, they are surrounded by the same sorts of people, it acts as a self-reinforcing system. As long as they think they are doing better than the next guy, then they are doing a-ok.

So what should we do? I think that if these groups were not so concentrated in on area (S. Division), but rather scattered throughout the central city in several locations, that we might see some progress due to the fact that they would be surrounded by different folks. Also, if there was a good way to figure out who needs help and who is just lazy, that would also help, because those ministries should help those who are able to get jobs and work toward self-suffiency. There is no single solution we can apply to solve the problem though. Just some thoughts....let me know what y'all think...

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The problem then becomes "where do the missions go?". A lot of NIMBY's won't want them in their area, even if they moved further down Division. I did read today that In The Image is going to sell their Division Ave store/building to a company called Urban Matters, that helps fledgling artists, and will also include loft apartments. I think once that area (Heartside) becomes more revitalized, the property values will go up and the non-profits will have to take a long hard look at what they can get for their property and move to cheaper digs.

andy, I think you're right that it is a self-fulfilling prophecy to surround yourself with other people who are drug addicts and alcoholics. I do think that some of these people are mentally ill, but maybe not as many as I think.

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The problem then becomes "where do the missions go?".  A lot of NIMBY's won't want them in their area, even if they moved further down Division.  I did read today that In The Image is going to sell their Division Ave store/building to a company called Urban Matters, that helps fledgling artists, and will also include loft apartments.  I think once that area (Heartside) becomes more revitalized, the property values will go up and the non-profits will have to take a long hard look at what they can get for their property and move to cheaper digs.

andy, I think you're right that it is a self-fulfilling prophecy to surround yourself with other people who are drug addicts and alcoholics.  I do think that some of these people are mentally ill, but maybe not as many as I think.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

One of the benefits of Heartside is its proximity to downtown and the buses, etc. Plus, rent is probably fairly cheap in that area, so outfits like Urban Matters can get folks in there and help to revitalize the area. I'm not a big art fan, but one of the best things that can happen to a stagnant downtown is an influx of artists because they are mostly younger folks who can really begin to turn things around simply by their presence. They can bring lots of life to areas that have none.

grdad you are right about nimbys (and bananas). I think there are fewer of them in the city than there are in the burbs, but they are there nonetheless and it can makes things difficult

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