High Point’s Somali community takes concerns to Housing Authority

One month after a High Point woman was suddenly attacked and stabbed while walking along the street, she joined a group of about 30 other Somali community members today to face Seattle Housing Authority leaders with their safety concerns.

She was joined by the mother of a Somali boy who was beaten days later, in the April 29 incident that happened hours before hundreds filled a room at Neighborhood Center for a community safety conversation. At that meeting (WSB coverage here), police and Housing Authority leaders heard many of the same concerns brought forward today.

But this time, it was a much smaller forum. The two women were part of a group of about 30, led by the High Point Somali Residents Council (HPSRC).

There to meet with them was Tom Tierney, who runs the Seattle Housing Authority as its executive director, and Rod Brandon, who leads its housing operations.

The two women told Tierney and Brandon that they did not feel safe in their own neighborhood. That was the general sense conveyed by those at the meeting – Somalis don’t feel safe, and are worried. Some said their children come directly home from school, lock the doors and refuse to go outside because they fear gangs who want to do them harm; a document provided by the HPSRC at the meeting declared that African-Americans and Samoans are “targeting” Somali youth.

The council’s document also said, “many residents have submitted their notice to move out.” One person stood up and said they had left a country where they never felt safe and came to America thinking they would have peace and safety, but now they live in fear. Several talked about being threatened near their homes; one mentioned a brick breaking out her front window in the middle of the night. Police do respond when called, they said, but they don’t hear followup – what police found after investigating.

The resident also said they are concerned that High Point’s on-site private security is often unresponsive, slow when they do respond.

After listening, Tierney said “there are a number of things we are currently doing” regarding security, but acknowledged more needs to be done, while he contended “data shows High Point is as safe as other parts of West Seattle,” adding, “But that’s not a good answer if your children won’t leave the house … we have to work across rcial, ethnic and income lines to create a place where they feel safe to live.”

He suggested the Somali community meet with police to bring their concerns directly to SPD’s attention; Brandon was tasked with arranging that meeting.

Part of the meeting also was used by the Somali residents’ group to voice other non-safety concerns, such as what they perceive as poor customer service from HP management.. The council’s president, Abdul-Qani Issa, said the community feels High Point management does not want to help or seek solutions.

Tierney promised to follow up on the customer-service complaints, saying it’s “unacceptable” to have non-responsive management. He also pointed out that several speakers had described High Point as a beautiful place, and voiced the opinion that it has great potential as a community. He also voiced hopes for more conversations between the housing authority and the community.

Meantime, as we reported earlier this week, the man charged in the April 23 stabbing attack, Marcus Combs, is undergoing a 90-day state evaluation to determine if he is competent to stand trial. And next week, a High Point community-wide meeting is planned as a followup to the April 29 gathering – this one will again be at 6 pm, HP Neighborhood Center.

8 Replies to "High Point's Somali community takes concerns to Housing Authority"

  • yan May 29, 2010 (11:15 am)

    Why does this group have it’s own council? Why is High Point marketed to be a Somali and retirement community? Why cater to special groups?

  • Miranda Taylor May 29, 2010 (12:09 pm)

    Dear WSB,
    Thank you for covering this. I understand our neighbor’s concerns. Even though the attacks are a token few, the way our country’s system deals with crime and mental illness is different from Somalia, Kenya, or the United Arab Emerates. While our police do a marvelous job, only the encouraged and willing are in mediation. We seek more ways to encourage mediation.

    Our system has some problems, and I appreciate SHA addressing the issues. It’s not just the lack of vitamin B in junk food. Not just the heavy metals poisoning the soil growing our food supply, (blood lead levels are associated with increased crime and though our state is enforcing careful lead removal finally, they allow dumping in the guise of fertilizer) it’s also the lack of time that people with common sense take to work with problems in our fast-paced society. The easy “pills” for problems don’t work.

    Some other cultures acknowledge that to be human may be to occasionally have some mental instability, and they help these people integrate and start back down the right path. Alcohol and drugs are not available in Muslim countries to (poorly) “medicate.” So obviously, coming to the land of the free can be shocking. They do not see scores of mentally ill there. I’m not saying that the United States is all wrong, but look at our prisons and look at our mental institutions, look at our hospitals.
    High Point is where health begins in this country. People who feel powerless are moving out. The ones that remain feel empowered to make changes. Before making any immediate reactionary decisions let’s look at the whole picture.
    We have an amazing community with a vision of the diverse community coming together in a country at peace. I hear the Somalis asking for medIAtion, one-on-one and in small groups. As soon as there is conflict, we want to bring people together and work it through. As a community, we need to figure out where the problems lie and find the honesty and courage to face them! This is the sensible natural medICation for the ills of our community.

    I realize this is a new way of addressing problems. Here is my challenge. I don’t want to wait until our dis-eased neighbors go ballistic and just put them away. I cannot just pretend some psychiatrist can clean their brain with drugs and food awash with chemicals and expect all to be well. That system doesn’t get many people anywhere.

    As a concerned citizen, a board member on the Neighborhood Association, and one who loves this community, I challenge High Point to create a new system. The community leaders still see the importance of selling fresh produce that’s priced right at High Point. In addition, we are mobilizing the Peace and Safety Team in order to focus on crime prevention. Feeding the community and keeping them safe are interconnected. As a whole we’re aware what it takes to be and raise a healthy community, and we are ready to take on the complexities of life.

  • 35this35mph May 29, 2010 (2:09 pm)

    I bet “they” have a council because they formed one! I am not aware of High Point marketing itself to be a Somali specific community, and the retirement portion of High Point is a set aside for seniors. High Point is still a part of the housing authority and therefore has a specific social mission; to serve low income (read: immigrant and elderly, among other) residents. The whole rest of the housing market is available for social Darwinism and if/when folks can build enough of a platform for themselves in public housing they can go compete in that marketplace.

  • yan May 29, 2010 (2:30 pm)

    Low income/public housing makes sense. Thanks for the answer! Sorry I’m in the qestioning instead of fighting mood. Keep on being angry 35!

  • 35this35mph May 29, 2010 (7:37 pm)

    Grraarrr! Snarf! Uhhhh,,, kitchy kitchy, coo?

  • T-Rex May 30, 2010 (10:25 am)

    Un flipping believable!

  • Dave June 1, 2010 (12:22 pm)

    Hmm: “People who feel powerless are moving out. The ones that remain feel empowered to make changes.”

    Actually, it’s the people who are not afforded taxpayer handouts that are moving out, at a steep loss. A slow, but painful transition into nothing but the typical welfare housing project. It didn’t have to come to this.

  • Gandhi June 5, 2010 (6:34 am)

    Whenever a particular member of community is attacked, that is a sing of hate crime in progress and sometimes also can be a lack of diversity misunderstanding. The only way to defuse this can of situation is to put in place a community policing station that works side by side with the community. This large town house multiethnic community residential area brings people of different back ground and it will take time to get to know each other and my recommendation is they need that Seattle housing authority to employ community event planners that can engage community to involve a food festivity, Carnivals, summers sports events etc. My prediction is that one’s people get to know each other they will become friends and respect one another like neighbors should. There is a Somalian saying that say “Ignorance is the enemy of Love” means, what you don’t know you will hate it first, ones you get to know you will love it. I hope this community opens there ayes and releases what a wonderful place they have and great people they live with. Be great full of what you have today and pray what you would like to have tomorrow.

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