FOLLOWUP: Admiral Church overnight-shelter program not expected to start for at least a month

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

“We’re all going to be OK.”

So said a neighbor toward the end of the second community meeting about Admiral Church‘s planned partnership with Operation Nightwatch to give 10 men a safe, warm, dry place to sleep each night. That neighbor was trying to reassure others who continued to voice concerns about the overnight-shelter plan.

Since the Sunday afternoon meeting, which included a chance for neighbors to question Nightwatch executive director Rev. Rick Reynolds, the church’s council has met to further discuss the plan. The church’s pastor, Rev. Andrew Conley-Holcom, says the only update from the meeting is that the program won’t start this month after all – “it’ll probably take around a month or more before everything’s ready on Nightwatch’s end.”

As recapped at the Sunday meeting, led by members of the church’s council – who are its decisionmakers, not the pastor – Nightwatch will drive the 10 men from its downtown HQ after the evening meal there, arriving at Admiral Church around 9:45 pm, locked in at 11 after a final “smoke break,” awakened at 6 am, and driven back downtown at 6:30. The neighborhood will barely notice their arrival and departure, it was insisted, and they’ll be long gone before staff and students arrive to start the day at the church’s co-housed A Child Becomes preschool.

In addition to those parameters, the men admitted into this program will have undergone a state criminal-background check, and will have to be sober upon arrival, no alcohol, drugs, or weapons permitted. Anybody who tries to leave the building before the 6:30 am trip in a Nightwatch-provided vehicle will lose their place in the program, and that’s considered “highly unlikely given the effort they’ve expended in securing this warm, dry place to sleep” in the church sanctuary. “When they are inside, they start to feel hopeful.”

Two neighbors voiced most of the concerns heard at Sunday’s meeting. One promised she’d be watching to ensure the arrivals and departures happened as planned. She also was worried about noise during the 10:45 pm smoke break, and she wanted a direct hotline to the Nightwatch staff member who will be at the site – awake all night – with the guests. That seemed to be a possibility; no one ruled it out. But Rev. Reynolds said they’ve been in a similar partnership with a church in Madrona for a year and haven’t had problems. “We want to be good neighbors.”

In response to a question, he said there wouldn’t likely be much turnover – once they developed a “cohort” of 10 men, that cohort would likely stay intact a while. In one three-month period in Madrona, for example, 19 people total were part of the program, and in another three-month period in summer, 15 cycled through. The space is very much needed, he emphasized. When it was mentioned that St. John the Baptist Episcopal Church also had had an early inquiry about participating, one of the Admiral Church neighbors suggested that church might be a “better” option, Rev. Reynolds said, “We need both … 6,000 people are without basic shelter” in the region.

One neighbor asked him to talk about what the program participants are like, he told the story of one man who participates in Madrona and works five days a week in the meal program at St. James, though Reynolds added that it’s “the kind of work you don’t get steadily enough to pay for an apartment.” Others work construction jobs. They’re generally about 35 to 50 years old, some in their 60s, not old enough yet for Social Security

What kind of criminal history, surfaced on a background check, would disqualify someone? Sex offenses and arson, Rev. Reynolds answered quickly, but wasn’t certain what else.

After the Q&A continued for a while, the meeting bogged down a bit in one neighbor’s contention that the church hadn’t consulted the neighborhood soon enough or closely enough in deciding to embark on this partnership. At that point, previously silent neighbors spoke up in full support of the program. One woman who said she’d worked with mentally ill people observed, “You don’t have control over who buys the house next door,” so why should neighbors expect control over what the church does with its property? She added that “if you come over and meet (the shelter guests), offer a cigarette at 10:45, you’re going to like them.” That’s when the voice of reassurance declared, “We’re all going to be OK.” That drew applause.

Rev. Reynolds summarized, “I think the uncertainties can be resolved.” After a few wrap-up words from church council members – stressing that this is not a drop-in program, not a meal program, “we’re not offering them anything (but) a warm place to sleep” – sun poured through the sanctuary windows, and neighbors lingered to talk with each other.

WHAT’S NEXT: In addition to Nightwatch working on logistics, the church is continuing to work on ongoing communication with the neighborhood, Rev. Conley-Holcom says. The ongoing FAQ is here, along with information on contacting the church with questions/comments. Once the program actually starts, it will start with a three-month trial period.

11 Replies to "FOLLOWUP: Admiral Church overnight-shelter program not expected to start for at least a month"

  • Alki resident November 11, 2021 (9:40 pm)

    Kudos to the woman who spoke out. Sounds like a few may lose some shut eye in their $800,000 comfy homes worrying instead of welcoming. 

  • Admiral Neighbor November 12, 2021 (9:06 am)

    Neighbors are concerned about the children in the preschool as well as the neighborhood. That’s why when we were told there would be NO background checks and that the participants might be using bus passes, we requested the background checks and transportation that are now in place. Neighbors being good neighbors. 

    • CAM November 12, 2021 (12:50 pm)

      Where was there ever a suggestion that people were being given bus passes to travel independently or were not having background checks? Those were part of the program as described from the beginning from everything I’ve read. Nothing has changed based on opposition from the neighborhood. 

      • WSB November 12, 2021 (1:20 pm)

        Apparently at the Madrona church where they have a similar partnership, that’s how it works – Nightwatch buses the men there, but they have transit passes for transportation away the next morning. Some of the more terse exchanges during these two meetings were because the neighbors apparently immediately contacted Nightwatch before the 1st meeting and were talking with them rather than with the church. The church, meantime, contended it had already raised those concerns with Nightwatch. – TR

  • Sillygoose November 12, 2021 (9:16 am)

    Good Grief this is the first step to getting these men into permanent housing and neighbors are acting like busloads of criminals are being brought in.  This same type of shelter program has been happening for decades with women at Holy Rosary Church.  It is a safe way to shelter and give nourishment to women who would otherwise be sleeping on the street.  There are no issues as they know they will be removed from the program.  Thank you Admiral Church for offering your space to these men for a warm safe space to rest.

  • Lagartija Nick November 12, 2021 (9:44 am)

    I applaud the church for doing this and am glad these 10 people will have a safe place to sleep at night off the street. But every aspect of this story is why the homeless crisis in our region will never be resolved. From the type of shelter offered (the vast, vast majority of visible homeless would never qualify) to the irrational opposition from a few NIMBY neighbors to even this incredibly modest proposal is why there are thousands of people living in tents/RV’s all over the city. We need to do better. We need permanent housing.

  • Rara November 12, 2021 (1:58 pm)

    The city has also started buying hotels to house more homeless and help people get on their feet with services. Sounds like some of those will be up and running soon. I wonder why they only take in 10 at the church. 

  • Gerry Flaten November 12, 2021 (4:09 pm)

    What the church does is not the neighbors business. We have been there for 125 years. If they want to make a difference then join the church. To some who think we are a gay church, you are wrong. We do have some gay members that are good Christians like the rest of us. We have food drives to help those in need, support the food bank and others in need. Various groups rent from us. (Love your neighbors as you would love yourself)🙏

  • Seth November 12, 2021 (5:23 pm)

    I agree with the majority of commenters that these men are unlikely to pose any sort of problem to the neighborhood. Perhaps in a sign of good faith, the church would agree in advance to accept any and all liability resulting in any potential untoward behavior exhibited by any of these temporary residents? I can’t imagine anyone would be opposed to this common sense solution that should appease all sides. Right?

    • heartless November 12, 2021 (6:47 pm)

      I agree with Seth, although I’m not sure he takes it far enough. 

      I feel that as a commensurate sign of good faith all landlords in the area should agree to assume all liability for any sort of damage, problems, or malfeasance any of their tenants might cause the neighborhood.

      And, of course, I’d feel even more comfortable if homeowners themselves would sign similar documents assuming all damages any of their guests might cause.

      We’d all sleep better at night, I’m sure, if people with money and homes took responsibility for the actions of those ne’er-do-wells who can’t muster the decency to have either.

      • Seth November 12, 2021 (7:49 pm)

        Though I sense the sarcasm seeping through his reply, heartless may be surprised to hear that I totally agree with his supposition. I would never ask of others what I am not willing and prepared to do myself. And I totally agree with him that any landlords, absentee or otherwise, and certainly any homeowners, should be prepared to do the same. Although quite surprised, I am very happy to find a kindred spirit here in West Seattle. Cheers!

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