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.