New neighbors moving in — will they be fresh out of prison?

A neighborhood in Sunrise Heights, in the 32nd/Holden area (map), is nervously watching a newly rented house. It’s been rented by an agency called Sound Mental Health, to use as housing for some of its clients. And one of the programs from which those clients might come is the Re=entry Housing Pilot Project — a relatively new, state-funded program (described here) to help people make the transition from jail/prison to the rest of their life. Of course, once they’ve done their time, they have to go somewhere. But these neighbors are worried their street isn’t the right “somewhere” – partly because of schools and day-cares nearby, and 10 small children on the block. But they also wonder why they got no notice – till this happened, as explained by Bill:

A couple of my neighbors were in front of their house doing yard work when they noticed two young people walk up to the house that is right next door to them. They knew the house was recently for sale and/or for rent so the said “hello” thinking that these might be their new neighbors. What they quickly learned was that they were actually County employees doing a site inspection for the house because this home had been leased out to the County to house 5 convicted felons who will be released from prison. The County employees stated that these were not sex offenders but simply “convicts who committed violent crimes, domestic abuse, are recovering drug addicts or have mental health issues. Our neighbors quickly informed the rest of our block about this and we just had a neighborhood meeting (over the weekend) to discuss this. Nobody in our neighborhood was contacted by the County or anyone else for that matter to inform us that felons convicted of violent crimes would be moving in right next door to us.

We’ve learned a lot more since that first note came in — including the fact those weren’t county employees — an explanation of why neighbors didn’t get notice – and whether felons really might be moving in, ahead:

The “county employees” were actually not from the county, but instead, were from Sound Mental Health, whose director of integrated services, Declan Wynne, spoke with WSB at length this afternoon, after we contacted the agency with a stack of questions about this situation and the program in general. He also wanted to note the employees are new and therefore couldn’t answer all the neighbors’ questions on the spot.

SMH says it will have a representative at the Thursday meeting, and neighbors are working to get other key participants, such as a police representative and possibly someone from city government. Wynne says SMH will wait until after that meeting to decide which of its programs would be best suited for placing residents in that house. But it still could be the Reentry Housing Pilot Project, created last year; according to this state webpage, Sound Mental Health got more than $871,000 to help up to 75 “high-risk, high-need male and female offenders”; the page goes on to say, With cross-system collaboration with DOC, housing management and the police, Sound Mental Health will develop an individualized multi-system care plan to address housing, employment, education, funding, basic living skills, self-sufficiency, and treatment services and supervision requirements..”

That is echoed by Wynne, who says this isn’t just a matter of opening a house to ex-inmates and cutting them loose. But he also confirms that there is not necessarily fulltime on-site supervision; the residents report to their Department of Corrections supervisors (once known as parole officers), and they have SMH case managers at the same location as those DOC workers. SMH personnel also visit the homes anywhere from twice weekly to daily. But there’s also one kind of resident supervision option, he says: “At some of our houses we have put in other successful clients [previous program participants] who become the house monitor, a mentor of sorts.”

Why West Seattle, we asked? It seems they try to offer the ex-inmates a place to live in the community they came from – which may be a community where they have some ties and some support. WS also is convenient to SMH’s 4th Avenue South location. And he says it’s also a matter of safety – for the residents, and those who live in the neighborhood.

That’s exactly what worries the neighbors; another nearby resident told WSB, “The case manager assured me that they will be expected to go to their jobs during the day and will have a curfew at night. What happens on the weekends and at night? They also told us that if there are any problems, we are to call them right away. Do I wait until they harm or kill one of my children or my neighbor’s children? Does this mean we as neighbors are expected to be the prison guards so that these men can comfortably get reintroduced into society?” She adds, “I understand that these people need to get their feet on the ground, but there HAS to be a better place for this kind of situation. NO GOOD can come from 5 ex cons living under one roof. I refuse to be a guinea pig for this crazy experiment.”

We asked Sound Mental Health’s Wynne why no formal notice to neighbors that this might happen. He said the agency would prefer to notify neighbors as a courtesy — though the law does not require it; once you’ve done your time, unless you are a sex offender, there’s no community-notification requirement — but said that they have to walk a line with federal privacy laws, particularly HIPAA: “If we notify them that this will be a house for (an SMH program), then we are identifying all its residents as participants, which would be a violation of HIPAA,” Wynne explained, adding that these are ultimately “private dwellings” and some degree of privacy goes with that, as it would for anyone.

Meantime, even if the house near 32nd/Holden is ultimately targeted for the RHPP, after the meeting with neighbors on Thursday, Wynne says “there’s nobody identified for going into it” right now. He says SMH has the program in homes “in normal neighborhoods” all over the county, and he says the residents of those homes have been “respectful,” no trouble so far. Participants are expected to stay in the program no longer than a year; according to Wynne, they are usually placed in new jobs within a month of their release (SMH has contracts with some employers). And he stresses again that they would be reporting to case managers who have “a very low caseload in comparison to other programs … (so) a lot more attention can be given to these participants.” He says that “low” caseload means 35 maximum per SMH employee; the ones who work as “clinicians” in this program, he says, are also trained in mental-health and chemical-dependency work so they can deal with their clients on those issues as well as others.

There’s no question, Wynne says, that Sound Mental Health will use the house for one of its programs; the question now is, will the agency go forward with the idea of using it for the Re-entry Housing Pilot Project, or will it be used for something else? The decision is due after the Thursday meeting with neighbors; meantime, those neighbors are continuing to do vigorous research as well as outreach to get the word out – just as we were finishing writing this story, we received a note from yet another area resident, who enclosed the notice about the Thursday meeting, which they found out about upon their return from a trip, and added, “As you can imagine we were horrified at the possibility of recently released inmates moving into a family oriented neighborhood that has a daycare one block away from the proposed site and a school (Our Lady of Guadalupe) 3 blocks away. Everyone in West Seattle should be concerned about this because of the ‘pilot project’ factor.”

We’ll keep close watch on this and let you know what happens.

84 Replies to "New neighbors moving in -- will they be fresh out of prison?"

  • RainyDay1235 July 28, 2008 (8:17 pm)

    This makes me physically ill. I live 3 blocks away!! My dear friend was MURDERED earlier this year by one of Sound Mental Health’s so-called “re-entry” clients.

    Poignant excerpts:

    “In March, James Anthony Williams told his case manager at Sound Mental Health that he was thinking about “murdering women and children on the street.”

    “After the investigation, Williams was charged in Seattle Municipal Court with harassment, but when doctors at Western deemed Williams — who has a long history of schizophrenia and violent behavior — incompetent to stand trial, the City Attorney’s Office dropped the misdemeanor charges and never refiled them.”

  • beachdrivegirl July 28, 2008 (8:39 pm)

    I actually know many people that work @ Sound Mental Health. and they have a wonderful program that is funded and staffed by amazing and wonderful individuals. The unfortunate thing is that people choose to only remember and talk about the once in a few years negative thing that happens with someone associated with their organization rather than the 100’s of individuals that have a success story every day. I wish them the best of luck and am glad to find that they found a part of West Seattle to spread their goodness.

  • Frustrated with Parks July 28, 2008 (8:42 pm)

    West Seatleites, just read the WSB Crime report. Crimes are committed here. Criminals live here. Parents and relatives abuse their children while living here. Murder happens. Rape happens. Crimes happen. All in West Seattle.
    This has nothing to do with “protecting our children”, schools, day care and the recidivism of sexual predators and the mentally ill.
    When someone in our community has served their time for their crime, why shouldn’t they be allowed to return? After all, at least ex-cons are under parole requirements. I would rather have a supervised half-way house next door than some of the criminal neighbors that have resided nearby without supervision. I hazard to guess, that if WSB could access records, we would find out that literally hundreds of ex-cons and parolees are amongst us. But in our society that is their right and our responsibility to respect.

  • wsmom July 28, 2008 (8:47 pm)

    2 blocks from ec hughes playground… what are they thinking???

  • beachdrivegirl July 28, 2008 (8:48 pm)

    I know many amazing individuals who work at Sound Mental Health. I have also had the pleasure of meeting some wonderful clients that have gone through their treatment programs. It is amazing to me at the type of care and facilities that they offer. I am honestly saddened by 1) our communities welcoming of this organization and 2) that the media only portrays the negative stories such as the one RainyDay1235 states above. SMH has enough success stories to have a success story every night on the media yet we dont hear about it. So welcome SMH I am glad to see you guys continue to expand your work! And thank you for being amazing, wonderful ,people, we appreciate it!

  • beachdrivegirl July 28, 2008 (8:48 pm)

    Sorry for the double post. it wasnt showing before.

  • mzar July 28, 2008 (8:53 pm)

    Can someone post the information on the meeting on Thursday? We would like to attend and I cannot find the info. Thx

  • Sage July 28, 2008 (8:58 pm)

    I also live nearby (about two blocks away). It certainly makes sense to be cautious and concerned about a facility like this so close by, but a dash of compassion wouldn’t hurt either. Is this really a uniquely bad place for a program like this? I don’t know. But if being a handful of blocks from a park disqualifies a location, then there aren’t many possibilities left around the city. This isn’t my dream neighbor either. And if there’s a place elsewhere that’s truly better, then let’s site it there. If not, let’s work to mitigate the potential risk, but also work to welcome the potential possibilities of redemption. Re-entry is a critical need.

  • mzar July 28, 2008 (9:10 pm)

    I personlly believe the best ‘site’ is one that is on the other side of the prison fence, on the prison grounds, which I already pay for.

  • rockergirl July 28, 2008 (9:13 pm)

    Let them move next to you then Beach Drive Girl if they are so great – of course they’d have to afford the property first since your neighborhood is high rent/cost. It may be a wonderful program but let them do it in some other area -possibly in some of the condo conversions on California that stand empty – this is crazy moving them into neighborhoods with young families- last thing we need is more criminals in West Seattle – especially the Sunrise Heights-High Point area – where we are working hard to improve our neighborhood. Just because some organization decides they think it’s a good idea to let newly released convicts move in does not mean it is a good idea. Please come to the neighborhood meeting and show your opposition to this insanity!

  • mzar July 28, 2008 (9:28 pm)

    rockergirl – can you please give me details for the thurs. neighborhood meeting? when, where, etc.

  • J July 28, 2008 (9:35 pm)

    “they have to walk a line with federal privacy laws, particularly HIPAA: “If we notify them….then we are identifying all its residents as participants, which would be a violation of HIPAA,””

    “They also told us that if there are any problems, we are to call them right away.”

    I’m curious; how are the neighbors supposed to know whom to notify if they haven’t been told in the first place that such a program is there?

    A general thought about this:

    Although I have to admit I’d feel concerned were these to be my neighbors, I also think we must have such ways to help guide people who’ve recently been released to transition them into normal society, else we’ll continue to be faced with the problem of re-offending as the released people don’t know any better ways of managing.

    So perhaps I must accept some such neighbors to reduce my chances in future of being a crime victim?

    Do we have good statistics on similar programs?

  • Oliver July 28, 2008 (9:39 pm)

    Well said, Sage. I couldn’t agree with you more. This is a few blocks from my house and the park where my young children play. So, of course I’m concerned. But I also feel physically ill when I see broad generalizations that imply that all “ex-cons” or people with mental health issues are dangerous. My brother is a recovering meth addict who suffers from paranoid delusions and was homeless. People make bad choices that sometimes lead them to bad places. That doesn’t make them bad people forever and doesn’t mean they don’t deserve a second chance with a decent place to live. There’s not much of a second chance if they’re forced to live under the freeway.

  • Chris L July 28, 2008 (9:44 pm)

    The meeting Thursday is at 6:30pm on the corner of 32nd Ave SW and Webster (sorry don’t know the house number). The home it will be at is green with white trim and white fence.

  • CB July 28, 2008 (9:50 pm)

    It’s time to rename this site:!

  • EAF July 28, 2008 (10:08 pm)

    I understand people’s concerns, but this may be the ‘devil you know’ rather than the one you don’t. I live in North Admiral and when my next door neighbor died, the person who inherited the house chose to rent it out to “crisis center.” This “crisis center” in turn has made what amounts to seven bedrooms out of a 4 bedroom house and rents it out to single men. Being a social worker, I inquired further. The crisis center does not exist beyond a letterhead (no registered 501c(3), no church affiliation, nada), there is no screening, and there is no background information on anyone living there. I have had – by my count – over 30 different single men living next door, sometimes for less than a week – in the last year. I have two small children and have called the City numerous times and they have told me that people have the right to use their property as they wish. Basically, I now have a flophouse next door for transient men.

    Not to hijack this conversation to bring up my own neighborhood issues, but to say that this sort of thing may already be happening in your neighborhood — albeit without any safeguards or monitoring — and you may not know. Although there are certainly concerns by the issue presented above, I would be relieved to know that monitoring, safeguards and some transparency exist.

  • YinWestWood July 28, 2008 (10:28 pm)

    Jeeezzz!!!!!! It sure seems like the south east quadrant of West Seattle gets targeted with these unwanted programs! Why not share the burden and put this pilot program in Admiral!

  • anonymous July 28, 2008 (10:38 pm)

    Before you go down that road you must know the list of social programs that are a very short walk from this neighborhood that have been built recently: The New High Point, The New West Seattle Food Bank, The Mental Health Facility, the run down school that was converted to a school for delinquents. They are also a very short drive from the potential sites for the new Jail and now they can look forward to a home for 5 men who were recently released from prison for violent crimes, narcotics offenses or criminal mental health offenses. I too know someone who works at Sound Mental Health and they’ve explained to me that while they do some tremendous work, they are extremely overstaffed and can barely keep their heads above water. Why has the city/state decided that this area is the designated let’s put it there spot? These people have enough in their neighborhood.

  • Diane July 28, 2008 (10:44 pm)

    This proposed house is exactly 3 straight blocks from Our Lady of Guadalupe School and 2 blocks from the Northwest Montessori preschool…where will these people be catching the bus to their new jobs? That’s right, on 35th right by these schools. At least 10 kids living on the same block as this house? This is not what a quiet street with young families in WS needs.

  • wsmom July 28, 2008 (10:47 pm)

    The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). What does this have to do with supposed convicted felons?

  • WSB July 28, 2008 (11:15 pm)

    We’ll be looking into some of the various questions noted here. And yes, of course, there are convicted felons living all among us. Even where notification is required, such as convicted sex offenders, if you use the search feature in the resources section on our Crime Watch page, you’ll probably be surprised to see someone living nearer you than you would have thought. Regarding the meeting location, I will ask the people with whom we’ve been in contact if they are OK with it being posted – it’s a block-watch-level type meeting so far as I can tell – or, if any of them are reading the comments here, they can choose whether to post it. Last but not least, re: HIPAA – it’s not just about insurance – it also implemented a wide variety of health-related privacy protections (for the media, for example, it means getting information about the condition of someone hurt in a crime, an accident, etc. is almost imopssible) – so ostensibly as clients of Sound Mental Health, folks in a program like this would be covered.

  • beachdrivegirl July 28, 2008 (11:20 pm)

    So out of curiousity Rockergirl..where in the Seattle limits is the poverty stricken non-family area? Andsince when did being mentally ill make u a criminal? Or is that your own opinion?

    Do you own your private island out there for people that dont dress like, think like you, or agree with you?? I know of one in the nothwest forsale for $8.1 million feel free to email me if you want to buy it for those that dont fit in your “perfect world”!

    You are shining example of educated and non-educated (regarding Sound Mental Health). you speak before you think nor know the facts.

  • beachdrivegirl July 28, 2008 (11:21 pm)

    And EAF thank you for bringing up a real concern!

  • Bill July 28, 2008 (11:30 pm)

    Beachdrivegirl, I apprecatie your compassion but you must know the facts yourself. These aren’t simply people with mental health issues. Of course, nobody wants people with mental health problems struggling on their own out in the street. But, this program and the home that has been selected is not just for people with mental illnesses. It is for convicted felons of violent crimes and narcotics (meth) offenses. On top that, there will be up to 5 of these folks living there at one time with no on-site supervision. Keep in mind that this is a “Pilot” program. There is no data on record that this type of program will work. I share the hopes and prayers of you who’ve said, “come on, give these guys a chance” but come on. The cold hard facts are that these types of criminals do repeat their crimes. If you so strongly support this experiment, please contact Sound Mental Health. They are looking for homes to rent. I’m sure they would love yours. Please ask your neighbors what they think of this first though.

  • WSB July 28, 2008 (11:43 pm)

    Thank you to everyone who has taken the time to comment so far. A reminder of the few basic rules we have here to keep spirited discussions from devolving into flame wars: No criticism of somebody else who is participating in the discussion here. Criticize and critique ideas all you want, but not the person/people presenting them; that’s the rule of engagement here. — TR

  • Ken July 29, 2008 (6:16 am)

    I see the consensus seems to be that there should be no end to punishment for anyone convicted of a crime.

    I don’t agree.

    But those who embrace xenophobia sentence themselves to never ending punishment. Fear is its own reward.

  • beachdrivegirl July 29, 2008 (6:40 am)

    “But, this program and the home that has been selected is not just for people with mental illnesses”-Bill . I appreciate you respecting my position but i dont think Wynne ever said that. “Keep in mind that this is a “Pilot” program.”– Bill Also,this was a guess or assumption that WSB said it could be. Wynne, who works @ SMH never said this either. I just find it odd that individuals automatically assume the worse in these people and shun them the way most of you are. Do you realize that if they are accepted and treated respectfully they will probably have a greater chance for success ? or would your rather have them locked up forever?

  • Lou July 29, 2008 (6:59 am)

    This is definitely a tough situation. I fully believe in providing opportunities to individuals who have served time…there is no reason why they shouldn’t be afforded an equal chance to get their feet back on the ground. That being said, I do have some concerns…I live a few blocks away and use the Hughes Playfield but pretty much believe I will be unaffected.
    So I decided to put myself in the neighbors shoes…what if the house directly next to me was targeted as a home for 5 ex-cons. Now, there are lots of what-ifs. What if there are 2 former rapists and 3 former armed robbers moving in there? Yeah, I’d be pretty damn worried. What if they are former gang members who still maintain their gang ties? This can go on and on and on…The point is that SMF has left this wide open, allowing everyone to assume the worst – which is valid at this point. So would I want them next door? Not 5 ex-cons. I do believe this greatly enhances the risk posed to the neighborhood and its residents. Maybe 2 or 3. But better yet, why put them together in a house? Why not purchase or rent smaller places and spread them out – I see no reason why they should be grouped in fives vs twos.
    Now on to another point which is trivial but should be made. I moved into my neighborhood and paid certain price for my home because of what the neighborhood provides. Unfortunately, if 5 ex-cons moved in next door, my house value will surely be affected…and yes, AFAIK, you would have to disclose this to future buyers to avoid being sued yourself. This, to me, is a huge issue since homes are not cheap around here. You will definitely lose equity in your home affecting a sale or a refi which could ruin remodel plans.

  • WSB July 29, 2008 (7:28 am)

    To clarify re: beachdrivegirl’s points to Bill – From the neighbors’ experience and my followup conversation with Declan Wynne, it appears that what happened is that SMH rented the home (which must have been recently – I found it listed online in a housing-subsidy program, dated just a couple weeks ago) for use in the re-entry program. Now, given neighbors’ concerns (and not just the nimby factor, which I’m sure they run into everywhere, but also the facts about the proximity of a school and daycares, etc.), they say they are reconsidering, but the neighbors need to proceed with their efforts with the assumption the original plan might not change. Re: Lou’s point, just in the past year and a half of serious news coverage here, I can recall a couple cases where something controversial was going into a neighborhood, but the group/organization behind it called an informational meeting first, and that really helped smooth the way (like the homeless shelter at the 42nd/Juneau church).

  • rockergirl July 29, 2008 (7:38 am)

    TR – Thanks for reminding people about the rules – I appreciate the opportunity to be able to express my opinion without being personally attacked. I have had plenty of experiences with mental illness and convicted criminals in my lifetime so far and very rarely have the “chances” they’ve been given ever led to sucess and there is great reason for the neighborhood to be concerned. Xenophobic – definitely not but wondering what effect this will have on those who live nearby. As stated by EAF – liveing next door to transitional housing – basically a “flophouse” has not been a good experience for anyone involved.

  • walfredo July 29, 2008 (8:48 am)

    WSMOM- HIPAA has very strict privacy regualations that effect all healthcare providers, and any programs done through the state. It is literally illegal for them to notify you, as it violates the privacy laws that these individuals have.

    The law, in this country, is that when people are released from prison- even of violent crimes- they are freed on some sort of a parole system.

    This has been the case for as long as anyone can remember. Not every criminal serves life in prison. So, they created Megan’s law a decade or so ago, that mandates that a convicted sex offender must notify his neighbors of his status. This is now tracked on various websites, as the notification is mandatory. In every other instance, the ex-con is given the same privacy rights as you or me.

    For these particular criminals, as part of there parole program, they have been put into a program that mandates work but provides a job opportunity, provides housing, a dedicated case manager, as well as a standard parole officer to the individual.

    Most studies show that the recididy rate of criminals deals largely with- the lack of opportunity in the workplace (you are required to list that you are convicted of a felony on applications), and the lack of treatment for mental health conditions…

    I can understand the “not in my backyard” mentality, and I absolutely empathize. But to me this sounds like a really good program, designed to cut down on crime. Believe it or not, it costs taxpayers less to provide this type of comprehensive support to people, then it does to incarcirate them.

    A program like this, to me, sounds like it is making an honest effort to end the revolving door prison system that plagues our country.

  • anms July 29, 2008 (8:58 am)

    I live doors away from this home and I have two small children under the age of 5. I understand that these men and women deserve another chance. But when we bought this house to move into and start our family, this was not a consideration. We didn’t ask ourselves “Hmmm….do we want to live down the street from 5 recently released prisoners convicted for violent crimes?” We were blindsided. The laws that are passed to protect them is unfair to the rest of us!

    If this goes through, we don’t know what we will do. Do we stay and become prisoners in our own homes worried every day at the very real possibility that one of these five men or women may re-offend? Or do we move out of our houses that we’ve put so much work into. If we do decide to move out, I’m wondering who would buy our house with something like that down the street? I do feel that we should be compassionate, but my family’s safety comes first and I won’t sit down and put them at risk.

  • Mayes July 29, 2008 (9:04 am)

    I appreciate every viewpoint expressed here, but think I will wait until I have learned more about the facts before taking a hard stand one way or the other.

  • Cait July 29, 2008 (9:04 am)

    I live in the Westhaven Apartments just a few blocks away and I would welcome a well-monitored program like this in my neighborhood. However, this being described as a “pilot project” concerns me when they have chosen a school and family oriented neighborhood. I find it hard to believe that they couldn’t find a few places a good distance away from schools, parks, and daycares to get this going.

    The fact is that these people need somewhere to go and the problem is that the less welcoming we are, the more likely we are to have trouble. If we are welcoming and agreeable, it’s more likely that the program directors and residents will feel more accountability to the neighborhood housing them (not that they wouldn’t anyway.)

    All in all, I applaud that projects like this exist and I see the benefit. Although I don’t necessarily feel comfortable with it in my neighborhood, we have to realize that someone has to do it. We might as well see this as an opportunity to do some good and try to be as welcoming as possible. However, I am concerned with what seems to be the lax monitoring and disorganization within the program – that’s the only real concrete issue anyone can complain about seeing that we don’t know the “criminals” that will be moving in. Try to remain open minded and grill the program about their policies instead of pretending to know something about “criminal behavior”.

  • Cait July 29, 2008 (9:16 am)

    Additionally – the people moving in used to live in this area. If we don’t give them a house to come back to, they would likely just be roaming around in our neighborhood anyway. We might as well give them somewhere to live and a sense of accountability if they’re going to be in our neighborhood anyway. Just a thought.

  • RainyDay1235 July 29, 2008 (9:22 am)

    I admit I might be a little sensitive to this topic – given the fact that my very good friend was brutally stabbed to death not only 7 months ago because a Sound mental Health and our crack Legal System kept re-releasing someone into society who told them he would probably kill someone. I miss her every day and I hope no one ever has to experience that kind of pain.

    >They also told us that if there are any problems, we are to call them right away.

    That says it all.

    >And since when did being mentally ill make u a criminal?

    It doesn’t, but again, these are not just mentally ill people – they ARE criminals. Maybe I’m getting more conservative in my ‘old’ age – but why isn’t it “Guilty BY Reason of Insanity”?

  • Bill July 29, 2008 (10:00 am)

    Cait. I live on the same block as this house and I share your compassion and concern but let’s be fair. You rent an apartment and can leave anytime when your lease is up. I on the other hand own my home and pay a substantial mortgage and HIGH property taxes bases on the “assessed value” of my home. If I want to leave I need to sell my home. I will have a very tough time doing so if there is a home for convicted felons on my block. While I respect your opinion I don’t think it’s apples to apples, do you?
    I also have a 2 1/2 year old son who loves running down the block to his friends house with me. Pretty soon he will be asking to go alone to his friends house and guess what, he’ll be walking right by this house with 5 violent criminals. Can you honestly say that you wouldn’t be concerned if you were in my shoes?
    This decision was made by the State and Sound Mental Health with very little regard to the nieghborhood they chose. It sounds like there are a lot of people who support this program. Sound Mental Health is looking for homes to house more ex-cons. Cait, do you have an extra room in your apartment? Mayes, do you have any room in your garage? Walfredo, does you mother or sister live next door to a rental that they can use?

    It’s very easy to read a story and think, “Geez, what a great idea! Why are these people complaining?” Here’s the facts, this program is a Pilot Program. The people living in the home will be people who have committed violent crimes, been arrested for narcotics offenses and sadly, serious mental health issues. The fact that these ex-cons rights are more protected than ours makes me sick. These are not poor little orphans who’ve lost their way and need a warm home and some love. These people made VERY bad decisions in life and have hurt countless people along the way. The fact that the State has radomly chosen our street as a petri dish for their experiment doesn’t concern everyone? I never thought I’d be the guy saying, “What about the children” but I’ll say it, “What about the friggin children”???!! Is it really ok with everyone to roll the dice and hope this program works? Cait, Wilfredo, Bechdrivegirl; I hope your right. I hope that this program is a big success and these ex-cons end up being great people and they come over to our house every Thursday night to watch 30 Rock. We then can all skip down to the Husky Deli for a double scoop!

  • Cait July 29, 2008 (10:01 am)

    I just want to extend my condolences as well to RainyDay… This is why I have the feeling that this project it too young and too disorganized to be in such a child-populous area. They obviously are not screening their patients properly. Letting them out before they have received proper treatment or care is doing them just as much a disservice as keeping them in jail – and a more dangerous one at that. If even one person who has said they have intent to kill slips through the cracks, they should get their funding pulled. No questions. I don’t care how much good you are doing it’s just a sad fact that one oversight can lead to that kind of action.

  • RRH July 29, 2008 (10:13 am)

    Been trying to post this for a while – hope it goes through this time…

    First, I don’t live in West Seattle, I live in Ballard, but I have good friends that live on the same block as the proposed project. They are justifiably scared for the safety of their family. I think everyone in the neighborhood agrees that many of the programs run by SMH would be a great fit here, just not the RHHP.

    Ok, let’s address a few things here – first, HIPPA. Yes, this applies to many of SMH’s clients. A convicted felon gives up many of his/her rights when the crime is committed. The safety of the community trumps the privacy of the felon. As this is a publicly funded program, we have a right to know how (and where) our money is being used.

    The state seems to agree with me, as you can easily find the locations of correctional facilities within the state, as well as search by name for offenders.

    The state also lists the physical addresses of existing work release facilities:
    It seems to me that what SMH is proposing is a small work release facility, without all the overhead of on site staff and supervision — FOR HIGH RISK, HIGH NEED OFFENDERS!!

    “The pilot projects to receive funding are:
    Sound Mental Health (King County): $871,108.00 for 50-75 high-risk, high-need male and female offenders. With cross-system collaboration with DOC, housing management and the police, Sound Mental Health will develop an individualized multi-system care plan to address housing, employment, education, funding, basic living skills, self-sufficiency, and treatment services and supervision requirements.”

    -from the program description listed above.

    Does the fact that this is a pilot program exempt SMH from the siting criteria established for work release facilities?
    Please read the last few pages that layout the criteria and process for siting a work release facility. Seems pretty onerous. Why don’t we just run a “pilot program” and do an end run on all this stupid oversight stuff. We need more beds!

    Does the fact that this is a pilot program exempt SMH from oversight by the state siting committee?

    If you were going to run a pilot program to re-introduce offenders in a new manner, wouldn’t you start with low risk offenders?

    Nobody is arguing that there is no need for this program – just that it is poorly designed and managed. To me it stinks of easy government money for an organization badly in need of funding. I’m sure that the MSW’s that designed this program have come up with some really great stuff – I think they just ended up focusing their requirements too much on the offenders and forgot about the communities they would be entering. I actually agree with beachdrivegirl – I too know people who have worked at SMH. There are some really great people there doing some great things for our community. Unfortunately they are the lowest on the rung, accumulating hours for their LMHC certificates. The great people get their hours, quit, and open private practices. The people that realize they can’t make it on their own stay and get management jobs. It’s just the way our system works for licensing mental health counselors.

    And just to show that this isn’t a NIMBY argument, lets look at a few places that might be a better fit for this program:
    Interbay, Georgetown, certain parts of Greenwood and Ballard would be great. There would be lots of great places for facilities along Aurora Ave, The University District, etc. Note that few of the locations I’ve mentions have a high concentration of young families. I’m not familiar enough with West Seattle to suggest suitable neighborhoods, but I’m sure you can think of some analogs to my suggestions above. A little bit more urban/industrial. Usually no kids on bikes in the street.

    To sum things up, this looks like a work release facility – why is it not subject to the same requirements?

  • JumboJim July 29, 2008 (10:21 am)

    So when does the Alki house open up?? How about the Laurelhurst house?? The Leschi house? My point being that some communities are dumped on more than others and that needs to stop.

  • Carrying July 29, 2008 (10:31 am)

    As was said earlier, crime happens in W Seattle every day, with or without these houses. YOU are responsible for the safety of your family and self. Walk around, smile, know your neighbors, say hi, engage, and get certified and get your CCP.

  • Wendy July 29, 2008 (10:33 am)

    I live four houses in from Holden on 32nd. This is my neighbor! I have lots of questions and don’t know how I feel completely. I am perplexed as to where we are talking exactly, and know that there are currently homes in the area that may be more of a problem than what is being proposed. I taught special education for 7 years and have a great understanding for individuals with mental health issues, I am very curious to hear from Sound Mental Health. An organized program is one thing and a half-way bunk house is another.

  • JumboJim July 29, 2008 (10:52 am)

    I would hazard a guess that many of the people concerned about this are not so much concerned with the fact that the proposed new residents might have mental health problems but that they have criminal histories.

  • Cait July 29, 2008 (11:02 am)

    Bill – I share your optimism. While I think it’s a little assumptive to think that I can just pick up and move which I really can’t, I wholeheartedly believe that your child’s safety needs to be addressed, which I mentioned – it’s of the utmost importance in my book and I hope you attend the meeting and ask the necessary questions.

    In fact, children and families nearby are why I feel this “pilot program” needs to be moved somewhere else for the time being, but I think we should be open minded regarding its return once we have more concrete proof that the placement of these citizens will be a relatively safe one (no one can 100% guarantee safety, but they certainly don’t seem to be doing much in order to quiet concerns as of yet) However that is ONLY AFTER they have figured how to avoid ignorant slip ups like the one that led to the death of Rainy Days friend, new employees going around to neighborhood answering questions, and obviously not consulting a map containing information on schools, daycares, etc.

    I think that we actually agree a lot more that you may have noticed.

  • ErinGoBrough July 29, 2008 (11:55 am)

    So who owns the house? They are the ones who agreed to rent their house to Sound Mental Health and allow five adults, convicted felons at that, to reside in their property. It’s about time for homeowners who rent their houses to be respectful to the rest of the neighborhood and take into consideration who they rent their house to. While a house might just be an investment to them, the rest of the neighborhood has chosen to establish our roots, raise a family and take pride in our homes. One inconsiderate homeowner is affecting an entire neighborhood, hundreds of people. I live one block away from this house and I am furious, not at Sound Mental Health or the criminals who will be moving in, but at the homeowner.

  • WSB July 29, 2008 (12:03 pm)

    I don’t know if the neighbors know the owner. Ownership of any parcel in King County is public record through the King County Parcel Viewer online. It was pointed out in some of our correspondence on this, with concerned neighbors, that in tough economic times as people have more trouble selling and renting their property, that any offer may look good – I don’t know the circumstances here but I do know of some people who have tried to sell homes and have had to rent them out instead because of the current market situation.

  • Eric July 29, 2008 (12:21 pm)

    My understanding is that there will be no supervision of these “un-sound” tenants which is completely unacceptable and unfair – and a danger – to the neighborhood. Unless there is 24 hour onsite security and supervision, this would be disastrous for the community. What about what happened to the girl on Capitol Hill last winter!! This should not be allowed to go through without vigilant on-site security and chaperons anytime these people leave the house. For all those who think this is unsympathetic, please by all means, extend an immediate invitation for these folks to come live with you. Scrathin ur head about now, yes? Right, we all thought so!

  • WendyHJ July 29, 2008 (1:29 pm)

    If you were to list your home for sale, disclosure of tenants located next door is not required because it is IMMATERIAL to *your* home or land. You only need disclose conditions on your property – did the roof leak, do you have a leaky oil tank contaminating the yard? Who lives next door is IMMATERIAL. It is up to the buyer to do proper NEIGHBORHOOD REVIEW. And as the seller you better keep your mouth shut and not spread rumors or hearsay about things that are unverifiable. Buyers generally have 10 days for neighborhood review according to the boiler plate purchase and sale agreement used by NWMLS members.

    So *property values* is a lousy excuse for being discriminatory against folks who have had a troubled past but are trying to become productive members of our society going forward. Generally homes managed by professional agencies have yards that look better than your own because they have a landscape crew that goes around and takes care of all of the homes they are renting in the region.

  • WSB July 29, 2008 (2:19 pm)

    Reminder about one other rule: We do NOT require that you post with your real name, but we do require that you not use somebody else’s name as an alias, particularly a well-known somebody else. If a comment is flagged for that violation, we will edit the posting handle to “anonymous,” but we’d prefer that you not make us have to do that extra work, so we can spend as much time as possible digging up more of the news that West Seattleites need/want to know about. Thanks – TR

  • RainyDay1235 July 29, 2008 (2:19 pm)

    I don’t think that arguement is true. Don’t most homeowners nowadays do a search for sexual predators and other criminals in the neighborhood BEFORE buying? Many of these services are actually free. I think it very much affects property value. But really, that is the least of my concern.

  • beachdrivegirl July 29, 2008 (2:24 pm)

    Teh only thing you can actually look into is sexual predators (as Walfredo pointed out) in regards to Megan’s Law. It is a violation of rights to notoify the neighborhood for any other reason. And no I dont think that homeowners do a search of a home before buying. Most ( I know many firs time home onwers) and that has never come up.

  • t4toby July 29, 2008 (2:42 pm)

    It seems like a bummer to those in the immediate vicinity, but…

    If you don’t believe in redemption, why don’t we kill all criminals? Or do we ship them off to an island when they get out of jail (further imprisonment?)

    Ex-con are not criminals. They have paid their debt to society. Isn’t that why we imprison people?

    Fear is the enemy. Fear keeps us all imprisoned. Don’t let your life be defined by fear.

  • dinolicious July 29, 2008 (3:04 pm)

    Wait a minute here! Where is this house? I live on corner of 32nd and Holden!

  • Bill July 29, 2008 (3:16 pm)

    Dinolicious, this house almost right across the street from you.

  • Chris L July 29, 2008 (3:25 pm)

    I thought the home in question was closer to 32nd and Othello, not 32nd and Holden?

  • moxiegirlinwseattle July 29, 2008 (3:48 pm)

    I just got word of this and I live two blocks away from the home. Although I don’t have kids yet, my sister and my 11 year nephew live ALONE in a home just next door from this proposed house. My brother and his family live a block away. I am seriously CONCERNED because this school year, my nephew and nieces will be walking home alone (like a ton of the kids that pass by my house every afternoon to go to Guadalupe School). I had a friend who once lived in the Central Area, by a half way house just like this. She lived in an appt and luckily was able to move away because she found that although it was suppose to be a “SAFE” house, she felt really uncomfortable with them watching her go in and out of her place. She felt that it was just a matter of time. No one should be subjected to this, but NO FAMILY oriented neighborhoods should really be subjected to this. I’ve grown up in West Seattle and I’ve watched SUNRISE HEIGHTS go through a revitalizations of young families moving in. On my block alone there are 10+ kids and we just live on 34th. I know that for each block the same is true. I feel bad for these mental health victims who are trying to transition, but i feel for my neighborhood and the KIDS who run around in it. I’d rather not add another SHOULDA WOULDA COULDA situation come out of this after the fact.

  • Chris L July 29, 2008 (4:14 pm)

    t4toby – I believe strongly in the death penalty, especially for repeat offenders.
    Do I think people should be “good to go” just cause they paid a debt to society? No. Why is it someone can kill and only serve 20 years is a joke! The West is too soft on criminals!
    I’m saying these “new residents” are killers, but the fact the stats show the chance of being a repeat offender is very high. I’m not willing to “play Vegas” with my neighborhood!

  • Bill July 29, 2008 (7:51 pm)

    Hi everyone. The house in question is between Holden and Webster on 32nd. A group of concerned citizens will be meeting with members of the Seattle City Council, Sound Mental Health and the Police Department this week. Several media outlets will be there too. Residents of Sunrise Heights: believe me when I say that the families on this block will do everything in our power to make sure that this does not go forward. We are fighting for your rights as well and simply want a place where all of us can live without fear and are safe from social experiments that the State wants to force on us.

  • Lou July 29, 2008 (8:28 pm)

    As for the home sale value issue…it is very much a real issue…not a ‘lousy excuse’. I’ve lived in a neighborhood where a house 4 doors down had a convicted felon and it absolutely affected the value of the home next door and the sellers ability to sell. They lost a significant amount of money in their sale, not to mention the additional time it took to sell the home. There were even block meetings to discuss the situation as the owner had prepared to sue the felon to cover his loss (unsure of the turnout – I believe he just left).
    If you don’t disclose it and keep quiet, that doesn’t mean that buyers won’t find out the truth. On top of that, you definitely open yourself up to being sued (whether or not it’s grounded).
    Personally, I could not in good conscience sell my home and not disclose that my neighbors are convicted felons…I would never want to hide such an important fact from someone who is buying my home without them knowing the complete situation in the neighborhood…call it karma.

  • a typical mom July 29, 2008 (9:32 pm)

    After reading all of this, I am appalled at rhe responses from those who are on their high horse about re-entry needs in society, but don’t live nearby with kids. What are the chances for complete success with 5 excon men living together in a small house, mostly unmonitored? It goes straight to any parent’s basic instinct to protect their children. One murder from a program like this is way too many when it’s your child. It’s like telling our kids to go play in traffic.

  • Diane July 29, 2008 (10:33 pm)

    Actually the house is on 32nd between Webster and Othello….near the Othello end of the block.

  • phnkim July 29, 2008 (11:29 pm)

    As someone who has spent 21 years of a 30 year nursing career in Public Health and also who has a sister and her young family living next door to the proposed site for a possible pilot project/half-way house, I have read all of these comments with great interest, as well as the newspaper coverage of the tragic murder of “Rainydays” good friend.

    What concerns me about the murder is that it sounds like the staff at Sound Mental Health, as well as Western Hospital, felt that the person was indeed a danger to others. I would agree that he was incompetent to stand trial. However, what is mind-boggling is that DOC did not re-file charges and, even worse, that the “mental health evaluators”did not feel that he was a danger to himself or others, despite the fact that numerous health professionals had said that he was. I would be interested to know the credentials of the “mental health evaluators.”

    What this illustrates is that even when people within the system (Sound Mental Health, Western hospital) are doing their jobs, our legal system and health care system is still full of holes that allow things like this to happen. I have worked for a county health care system for almost 21 years and have a large number of people on my caseload who are mentally ill, homeless, active or recovering drug addicts, and ex-convicts. If I didn’t believe that people deserved a second chance and need to be treated with dignity and respect, I wouldn’t be a Public Health nurse to begin with.

    However, precisely because I work in a county system with this type of population, I know that case managers are over-worked (because in the public sector, we are chronically under-staffed) and clients can fall through the cracks. If the clients will actually be seen up to 2-3 times a week, that would be awesome (and very surprising, but miracles do happen). Are the visits scheduled or unscheduled? How accessible and responsive is the agency to the neighborhood if there are problems? 24/7? Or M-F from 8:00 to 5:00?

    I think some other very valid points/concerns that have been made are the close proximity of a pilot program (pilot program means that they are still trying it out, they don’t have data yet, they don’t know how effective it is, etc) to a neighborhood that seems to be composed of families with young children and is close to a park and a school. Also I think the number of ex-convicts living together needs to be looked at: perhaps a smaller number, like two’s and three’s, as one person suggested, would be better. Perhaps a program that helps women with children get back on their feet during recovery from domestic violence or substance abuse would be a better match for this neighborhood. A man or woman (or couple) in recovery with children would fit the demographics better than five single men or women. Recovering families need the kind of family-oriented neighborhood that this one seems to be. I can’t help but think that the main reason Sound Mental Health chose this location was because it was affordable—and it’s more cost-effective for them to house 5 single clients there than 2 clients with families.

    It’s easy for people who don’t live in the neighborhood to make accusations of “nimbyism”; however, the homeowners have legitimate concerns regarding the safety of their children and the value of their properties—concerns that will hopefully be addressed in the meeting on Thursday. As one person pointed out, it is much easier to move if you are renting than if you own your home. Home owners in general have a bigger financial and emotional investment in their neighborhood than renters and should have a say in things that affect it.

    In the city I live, we have a transitional family shelter that is run by the city and consists of an apartment complex with 9 units: each unit is occupied by a family with children. There is an on-site manager and residents have to follow rules like curfew, drug testing, that kind of thing. No one would ever know by looking at it that it is a transitional shelter.

    I think apartments are more suitable to transitional type of housing than single residence homes, especially if you are housing single men and women—they don’t need easy access to parks and schools—they need easy access to transportation and jobs, as well as social support services and they would blend in better in a neighborhood with more single adults than families with children.

  • derf July 29, 2008 (11:42 pm)

    Sound Mental Health has this pilot project already off to a horrible start. I’m sure they do some really good work in the community for the under served in our city, however… Why would these convicted felons want to live in this house at all now that the whole neighborhood already hates the idea — how welcoming of an environment is that going to be? How therapeutic? I would not want this situation on my block, or near my house either. It does impact property value, anyone who says otherwise is naive. It doesn’t make good sense for this many people (felons) with similar troubled pasts to be living together in one house — what kind of help are they able to offer eachother? What kind of agency would set them up for such an awful beginning — being despised by your neighbors before you even know them? It seems each person should be quietly placed in a household where there are stable reliable support people living on site — more anonymity — more chance to assimilate and get your foot in the door so as to have people get to know you and then earn respect and trust with neighbors… too bad that we all have our fears and prejudices about felons (violent offenders no less?) , but we are human and we are genetically programed to SURVIVE — fear of violent offenders is a healthy fear. Just because the law says you have paid your debt to society doesn’t mean I have to agree as an individual — what if there was a plea bargain? What if there was rape, murder, beatings w/deadly weapons involved? No thank you Sound Mental Health — please do not set your clients up for failure in West Seattle. The devil you know vs. the devil you don’t — well that is the stupist thing I ever heard — if you KNOW the devil, then you can and need to do something about it…or you can’t complain about the outcome, butif you don’t know, well… duh, you can’t do anything about it then can you? Of course there are felons among us, mentally fragile or mentally ill people abound in West Seattle, but the reason you probably don’t realize it is because they don’t have Sound Mental Health clumsily helping 4 or more troubled or challenged folks get a house next door to YOU.

  • GreenSpaces July 30, 2008 (12:02 am)

    You are not required by law to disclose who lives next door to you. You may look at the NWMLS Form 17 Seller Disclosure Statement here:

    All home sellers listing their home for sale using a real estate agent in this area are required to fill out this form.

    As you can see, there is NOTHING to do with anything outside of your property line on this form.

    It is actually a bad idea to spread rumors and hearsay about neighbors – whether you are selling property or not. It is immaterial. This is why agents try to be sure sellers and buyers never cross paths during the course of showing or preparing an offer to purchase. Sellers shoot themselves in the foot by opening their mouths, then wreck their chances of selling their property – over information that is IMMATERIAL.

    For those of you who still don’t get it, this is the definition of immaterial:

    im·ma·te·ri·al [im-uh-teer-ee-uhl]
    1. of no essential consequence; unimportant.
    2. not pertinent; irrelevant.
    3. not material; incorporeal; spiritual.

    This luttle lesson in real estate law is free of charge.

  • beachdrivegirl July 30, 2008 (7:41 am)

    Derf this isnt Sound Mental Healths project it is the states. If you didnt any research on it you would realize it.Sound Mental Health is one of the agencies the state has chosen to partner with for the King County Region.

  • beachdrivegirl July 30, 2008 (7:50 am)

    supposed to say did

  • derf July 30, 2008 (8:57 am)

    beachdrivegirl — I didnt any research on it :) I confess, as you say. I read the Blog… a little information can be a dangerous thing I suppose, however, what do you mean it isn’t Sound Mental Health’s project? If they are working with the state, contracting/partnering with the State, then it IS their project by contract, or am I missing something? Nobody is forcing Sound Mental Health to do this project — if they don’t think it is a sound idea, then they shouldn’t agree to do the work. Certainly they can be better prepared to help neighbors understand the legitimacy behind their logic/plan…”Pilot project” or whatever. There neeeds to be some research to back up their plan — otherwise it does seem, to those of us who live nearby, not a good idea to put it mildly. The agencies involved should know that they need some sort of community support to make this deal work out — they should have provided better information to the neighborhood to show why this is a good idea — back up their desire to help people with legitimate results based research — they need better PR people obviously — it is our duty as concerned citizens to express our thoughts in this forum. Please help me understand how this possibly could be a good idea? What about the situation sounds like it will be a success so far? If Sound Mental Health is concerned about the neighborhood response, they should post something here to help us understand their plan and how it is supposed to work out best for everyone. And they should have been proactive and done this before everyone got all upset — put up the facts that show this is a good sound model of helping these folks get back on their feet. Show me the facts, the research, the reasoning would be nice as well.

  • Eric July 30, 2008 (9:35 am)

    Having reviewed all the comments, I cannot imagine even a reasonable suggestion as to why the 5 felons should be allowed to move into this home. It is a danger, a menace and will absolutely affect property values and quality of life for the other homeowners who have earned their right to live in society and do not want to be subjected to all that this “un-sound” choice has to offer the neighborhood. Who is this beachdrivegirl by the way. She can’t spell or correctly compose sentences and makes no sense whatsoever. Who is she defending, bad neighbors everywhere? The real-estate speak person who keeps chiming up here is speaking from a real-estate sales perspective and demonstrates no care for the neighbors on the block who will face the un-sound placement of these five. I would hope the neighbors have considered hiring a very competent legal team at this point.

  • beachdrivegirl July 30, 2008 (9:58 am)

    sorry eric, you are right i dont “compose” perfect sentences b/c i dont have time on my hands to make sure everything makes since/spelled correctly etc. And if you were an active member of the blog you would have met me by now b/c i do take part in many of their community events. I just like to give people the beneefit of the doubt and dont think that living in a paranoid world full of hatred is a nice way to live life.

  • beachdrivegirl July 30, 2008 (10:00 am)

    Does everyone realize that we all live amongts fellons already? It just isnt public record of where they are etc. I would actually be greatful to know where they are …

  • cc July 30, 2008 (11:48 am)

    Bdg, of course we know felons are among us, but not 5 freshly released felons all in one house without supervision. Picture yourself with children and these folks moving right next door to you, can you honestly say you would be fine with that? can you say truthfully that you would sleep just as sound at night as you do now?? Or let your children play outside and not worry any more than if these people werent right next door?? Or say there is a woman living alone on the block. How must she feel and change her life top feel safe in her home?? I am curious because I have had someone move near me with direct sight into my backyard and not felt comfortable in my own back yard and i do not have any knowledge about this individuals criminal record if there is any but I do know what it feels like to feel creeped out by something and can very much sympathize with these residents who have concerns for their safety and peace of mind. And I understand you know and love some of the employees there but they can be as great as can be and still these offenders repeat crimes, esp if they are addicts or alcoholics, incarceration keeps them clean and sober but unfortunatley once given the opportunity to drink or drug again it is very hard for these folks to stay clean even with support and help and what seems to be a terrific new chance at normal life….

  • P July 30, 2008 (12:35 pm)

    I live within 2 blocks of a few people who have had bad past lives. Other than the occasional loud car work at late hours we have not had any problems with the 2-3 (one moves in and out) people for 5 years. With the constant issues of jails that are way over crowded we are going to continue to see more and more of these types of living arrangements in the future. Personally I am pretty shocked at the amount of negative response to this issue. I agree its an issue, and it could have severe negative impacts should one of the residents reoffend. I have a very good friend who works in Monroe at the facility there and she tells me how most of the programs to assist the inmates are cut back and continued to be cut back or canceled. So, what I am saying is this is something that is not going to go away, and we will probably see more and more of it in the future. Lastly, next time you are out shopping, etc, just remember you just might be crossing paths with a person who has served time. This would be the cashier, stock clerk, person installing something in your home, delivering something to you, etc, or better yet, even a business owner.

  • JuJu July 30, 2008 (12:40 pm)

    Let me first start by saying that I am one of the neighbors directly involved in this situation. Not someone who happened upon this blog and feel justified in making judgments against the people who are dealing with this situation first hand. That being said, I also worked at SMH 15 years ago, ironically with Decklan Winn, the director of this progam. As I can recall, he is a caring, compassionate and intellectual individual. I am criticizing him personally, just questioning the judgement by SMH and his program to put this facility in this neighborhood and this house. A house that is 15 feet from two families with small children. A house which has windows that can see directly into the bedrooms of these children. I also worked as a residential treatment counselor for 3 years in a facility in Lake City. I have been on “both sides of the fence.” I am also a mother of two small children. We moved into this neighborhood 9 years ago, choosing it for its diversity as well as its promising nature to become a nice, quiet and safe environment to raise a family. The house in question is 20 feet from my own. The backyard looks directly at the area where we park our car. I work at night and sometimes arrive home at 11pm. Up until now, I have felt relatively safe getting in and out of my car at night. If this facility moves in, I can’t say that I will be able to say that. I am sure that the woman who was killed on Capitol Hill a few months back was simply going in/or out of her building. She was in the wrong place at the wrong time. She had nothing to do with the man who killed her. Can SMH assure me that the same thing won’t happen to me or my family? No. I am not willing to risk our saftey of what “might” happen. Even if 4 out of the 5 people living in this house are successfully reformed, what about the 5th? I applaud the efforts of people such as those at SMH who are trying to help people regain their life and be reformed, but I do and have every right to question the process and criteria involved in thier decision to move this facility into this particular location. I find it interesting that as we are being accused of sterotyping and generalizing the potential occupants of this house, that the same is being done to us. Until this is happening to you personally, it is really hard to say how you will feel or react. We have tried to tackle this situation intellectually and reasonably by doing research and gathering information. We are not a mob of angry people with torches battering down the doors of this house. So as a response to those who think we should “embrace” this facility and the clients to help them see their way back into society, I ask, “What would you do? How would you react if they were moving in 15 feet from your kids bedroom?” It is not so black and white. It is a complicated and emotional issue. And for the people who think we are being narrow minded and socially insensitive, I invite you to call SMH and volunteer your time to come and stay in the house to supervise the clients.. Reach out, “spread your goodness.” That is of course if you have time — betweeen all the countless hours that I am sure you are spending at the homeless shelters, soup kitchens and food banks. While you are at it, locate all the rentals available on your block, make a list and submit to SMH to consider as the next location for one of these facilities.

  • t4toby July 30, 2008 (1:32 pm)

    So what’s the answer? Where are they supposed to go?

    You can’t find a place with no children, no neighbors, etc. Really, people’s concerns are valid, but what is the solution?

    It kinda sounds like people are saying ‘Put them anywhere but here. Let some one else deal with the issue.’ Which is valid, I guess, but also the definition of NIMBYism.

    Should they be put in a poor/minority neighborhood? If they aren’t here in our neighborhood, where do they go?

    Full disclosure: I do not live right there, but a good friend and her daughter do live within 2 blocks. I am empathetic to the concerns of parents with children as I have two young girls. But I am stumped as to what the answer is.

  • Cait July 30, 2008 (2:39 pm)

    I think it’s really great that most people on this blog are able to see both sides of the coin and aren’t resorting to full on hippie-treehugging-love-ism or too much nimby-ism. I think that that’s the key. I hope that everyone asks the difficult questions at the meeting because it’s obvious that there are many going on here. I agree that we should have some real sympathy for the people whose backyards this affects and I hope that we can all put ourselves in the uncomfortable position of the other persons shoes no matter what the perspective.

  • beachdrivegirl July 30, 2008 (3:36 pm)

    I have never said that I wouldn’t be asking any questions. I have never said that i would feel 100% comfortable in my own skin. What I have pointed out is a couple of different things. First, I have tried to point out that their are many success stories coming from Sound Mental Health. The reason why I wanted to point this out is that everyone keeps going back to the man who killed an innocent bystander on Capital Hill earlier this year. (And to you RainyDay1235 I am very very sorry.) I think it is important to point out to people that this is one case out of the 1000’s of clients they serve every year. This is less than 1% of their client base. By pointing this out and seeing the facts and figures that more than 99% of the time this does not happen should put people @ ease. Second, I am also questioning the reasoning behind peoples posts of why it should not go here. I have heard the it hurts the real estae market b/c I have to disclose this to becuase we have children and this is a family neighborhood. I understand your concerns but using those arguments to fight something such as this isnt going to work. Where is their a nieghborhood that does not have children? And the real estate thing I just dont buy it. If the value in your house goes down b/c of this, IMO, it is not b/c of this program run by the state, but because you chose to disclose something or make a bigger deal about something that should not be an issue. I have a suggestion to those that are this concerned with the programs. Dontate time or money to these agencies out there. If they had more resources whether it be volunteers to help monitor clients or money to create more staffed housing then there would not be the need for more and more of these unstaffed and unmonitored housing situations. I think that if you are planning on going to this meeting I would think about what i was going to say and the questions I want answer b/c emotional arguments about your family and children although will get a response of compassion will not get you the answers I think you are hopeing to receive.

  • JuJu July 30, 2008 (4:43 pm)

    Regarding my previous entry: In my statement about Decklan Winn — I meant to say that I am NOT criticizing him personally. Sorry for the typo, it makes a big difference it what I was trying to convey.

  • a typical mom July 30, 2008 (8:37 pm)

    Beachdrivegirl, you are starting to come around and see the injustices of putting a poorly managed and funded pilot program on the backs of childrens’ safety. You mention the need for more staff and more money. I am sure that the original re-entry vision was different than this hideous reality. SMH surely knows that qualified staff would think through the needs of unemployed excon men better than this. Spend the money to rent places for 2 men – not five crammed into a small house. Pay to staff constant monitoring as well as other supports. Where is all this money? In Iraq for starters. We are all feeling the ripple effect.

  • phnkim July 30, 2008 (10:18 pm)

    Typical mom, you took the words right out of my mouth. Government funding for programs to help this population (ex-cons, recovering addicts, mentally ill) is shamefully low in a wealthy country like ours. That’s the main problem here: Is “$871,108.00 for 50-75 high-risk, high-need male and female offenders” really enough money to provide “cross-system collaboration with DOC, housing management and the police and develop an individualized multi-system care plan to address housing, employment, education, funding, basic living skills, self-sufficiency, and treatment services and supervision requirements.”
    I would say, “Hmmm, maybe not.” As I said in my earlier comments, I think the main reason SMH chose the house in question is that it was offered at a price they could afford.
    Instead of some people getting on their moral high horse and implying that the homeowners in the neighborhood are narrow-minded NIMBY’s, perhaps some of that angst ought to be directed at our government that doesn’t provide enough funding in the first place.
    Someone once said “A society will be judged by how it treats the least of it’s members.” Funding for treatment of mental illness is abysmally low and always has been. People who work at places like SMH try to do the best they can in a dysfunctional, under-funded system–tragically, many times it is not enough.
    As you also said in an earlier comment, “One murder from a program like this is way too many when it’s your child.” That goes to the heart of the matter. Statistics are meaningless when it is your child, your friend, your relative. The fact that Rainyday’s good friend got murdered in a random killing that happens less than 1% of the time probably did little to assuage his/her grief.
    Of course, one must look at statistics when making policy decisions, and when there aren’t many statistics available, one must try to minimize risk to vulnerable populations as much as possible. The main objections I have been reading from the neighbors are that the proposed project did not seem well thought out and the house seemed to have been chosen more for the reason that it fit their budget rather than thinking about whether or not the project was a good match for the neighborhood. I agree with another person who said why not house low-risk offenders there instead of high-risk ones? Anyone (I think even beachdrivegirl) would be concerned if they learned that 5 high risk offenders were going to be housed right next door with minimal supervision.
    I’m glad to hear that SMH has pulled out of the lease and hope that they look at these types of issues more carefully in selecting their next site.

  • dinolicious July 31, 2008 (7:43 am)

    There is a place they could possibly house these type of offenders. The south end of the SODO district. There are empty businesses that could accomodate alot of people. Not close to schools, little kids, etc. AND good bus service. I don’t know if they can because of zoning laws but it would be worth it for them to look into.

  • rockergirl July 31, 2008 (3:17 pm)

    So BILL are you still having a neighborhood meeting tonight? Just wondering – also is anyone in the area having a BLOCK PARTY next week during the Annual Night Out – I live on 31st and don’t think anyone on our block is organizing one but would be fun to do it if anyone is interested.

  • JuJu July 31, 2008 (9:37 pm)

    rockergirl — I am on 31st Ave too — Since no one our street seems to ever be out or interested in talking to each other, 32nd avenue has “adopted” us. We will be attending the “night out” with 32nd — how can we chat about this without posting personal info on the blog? Obviously, things have cooled down considerably since the latest update regarding SMH. I have spent the last 5 days embroiled in that.

  • rockergirl August 1, 2008 (6:34 pm)

    Hi JuJu – You can email me by clicking on my name I believe – let me know the details of the Night Out – I’d love to join you all and see if anyone else on the block is interested.

  • Marti October 8, 2008 (3:06 pm)

    I understand the concern that everyone has for an ex-fender living next door. Lets look at the big picture. We all have committed a crime of some sort and have not been charged for our crime. Reformed individuals do need to have a chance to live a life just like anyone else does. Some of these people in the program do have homes to come home to but are unable to because of the system. People not wanting ex-offenders in their county because of so many. Most offenders in the system is because of drug use not because of violent crimes against others.People need to remember that these people that are getting intergrated back into society is someones mom,dad,sister, brother and exeter. These folks have lost everything and now are trying to make it in this big bad world just like we are. Give them a chance to prove themselves before leaving them out in the cold with just their despair and past. people can change with support

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