Monday, November 9, 2015

LETTER: When Redmond provides homeless services the homeless population increases

What never gets reported on is how when you provide homeless services the homeless population increases. The City of Redmond is a perfect example. About three years ago Down Town Redmond did not have a significant homeless problem. But since they started providing services to young homeless men three years ago the homeless population has skyrocketed. The problem is mostly young men. 

Per the Redmond City Focus Group Minutes 21 out of 21 homeless interviewed by the City of Redmond that answered the question where they were from before they became homeless in Redmond all 21 of them gave a location other than Redmond. The interviews were conducted by Colleen Kelly the Assistant Director of Community Planning for the City of Redmond, I was at one of the interviews. The proof is in the interview minutes. If you do not believe the attachments go directly to the City web site, see below. Eight out of the twenty one persons interviewed were from another state.

Interviews of the homeless are on the City of Redmond web site here. To get to them scroll down to Focus Groups.  

The Redmond Reporter had the facts, but when they reported on the Homeless Task Force they would not report the fact that 21 out of 21 persons interviewed were not from Redmond. 

If City Hall had not given a 64.3% super majority to homeless advocates on the task force the following proposals would have been passed and reduced the imported homeless problem in Redmond at very little cost to the city:

1) Adopt a panhandling ordinance - This has been done by Tacoma and Pierce County in 2007 and 2008. Constitutionally it has not been challenged. The regulations prohibit panhandling near ATM machines, near the entrance to a business (you have to be 25' away to smoke), at night, as someone is getting out of their car (you are in a vulnerable position), etc.  Karen Reed the consultant that ran the Task Force confirmed that the ordinances have not been challenged and that the Police typically do not give fines or make arrests but use the ordinance as a tool. Currently in Redmond if a person wants to panhandle next to an ATM and a Police Officer asks him to move, the panhandler can tell him to get lost that he has every right to panhandle next to the ATM. This item got 57% support, if the Task Force had not been filled with 64.3% homeless advocates it would have been recommended.

2) Post Signs to discourage panhandling and encourage the public to give to charities instead - Being given money attracts panhandlers. If you encourage the public not to give to panhandlers directly it will help to reduce panhandling. This item got 43% support, if the Task Force had not been filled with 64.3% homeless advocates it would have been recommended.

Al Rosenthal
Redmond Homeless Task Force Member  
Building Owner, Down Town Redmond


Unknown said...

This doesn't propose a solution to homelessness in Redmond (or around the area), just a way to kick the can further down the road.

Anonymous said...

Homelessness is a region wide and west coast problem that continues to grow. Other cities have seen the same increase as Redmond so there's no cause and effect because the city helped provide additional services to the homeless. The cost of housing is skyrocketing simply because of not enough housing supply to meet the demand (Econ 101), the average wages in the region are much higher than elsewhere because of high tech and aerospace (that's a good thing on the whole), and the region has grown by leaps and bounds the last 3-4 years, well beyond projections.

Sara Pelfrey said...

Mr Rosenthal,
First thank you for taking the time to serve on the Homelessness Task Force.
As a long time resident, I have a few concerns with your letter.

First, you mention that homelessness in our area has become quite an issue over the past three years and that downtown did not have a significant homeless problem.

My experience is radically different of this area.I happened to own a local downtown business from 2006 to 2012 and saw that our streets where full of homeless people all the time. For example in 2008 - 2010 you could easily go to several parking lots and count the families that where sleeping in their cars. Let alone the creation of the local car camps (the first one I knew of was in 2010 on Red-Wood Rd) and other shelters that have struggled meeting the demands on the Eastside.
I can not even count the amount of local teenagers that I have met over the past 10 years, who grew up here, who where homeless for various reasons and live in the secluded areas of our town. Many of them have grown up and still come back frequently, have issues with dependable housing and have a host of other issues relating to the dangers of living on the streets, and they are Redmond's kids. This is not to even count the amount of able bodied adults who are living paycheck to paycheck, couch surfing or sleeping a night or two in their car.
I could easily scroll through my facebook and identify 21 people who have been homeless in this city within the last 5 years and still might be. All of them are from here or identify that Redmond is their home.

I guess what I am saying, is that in my experience, your group might have talked to 21 people who where easily identified as homeless who where not "from here" but that is only one small snippit of a much more complex situation. This is not an imported problem, it has always been here.

Panhandling might be uncomfortable, but so is living without a home. There might be crime from the young men who are homeless but the Eastside has cut services for those in the greatest of need, even if it was a warm place to sleep, which in itself could be viewed as a crime.

I am a little concerned that as someone on the task force (which I am assuming since you signed with it under your name that this is a view held by the task force), is using pretty pointed phrases and 'othering' of the homeless to validate a no panhandling incentive. Just because someone is from out of state makes them no less a citizen, and just because someone became homeless before they came here means they don't belong here and are not our community.

I would love some clarity from you on this. Thank you for your time.
Sara Pelfrey

Al Rosenthal said...

Sara Pelfrey

I am not sure what was not clear.

Fact: It was not my group that did the interviews. It was In the City of Redmond’s Colleen Kelly the Assistant Director of Community Planning for the City of Redmond that did the recorded interviews. Based on conversations I had with her she is a homeless advocate and without question looking do as mush as possible for the homeless in Redmond. In the Focus Group Minutes 21 out of 21 persons that answered the question where they were from prior to being homeless all 21 of them gave a location other than Redmond. You seem to think that most of the homeless in Redmond are from Redmond prior to becoming homeless, but you have no study to back it up, just your opinion. My numbers were not based on opinion; they were based on the facts from the interviews.

Go to the City of Redmond Web site and read the interviews, they are not my interviews they are the City of Redmond’s interviews.

Fact: The City of Redmond appointed nine Homeless Advocates to the task force out of a total of 14 people, giving the Homeless Advocates a 64.3% voting majority. A 60% majority was required to recommend a suggestion to the City. I consider a person a homeless advocate when they work for an agency that helps the homeless. Even the one person that was listed as a resident worked for an agency that helps the homeless. The City of Redmond by giving the homeless advocates a 64% majority set up the Task Force to recommend doing more for the homeless, not caring if it attracts more homeless to Redmond.

Fact: It is unconstitutional to ban panhandling, but it is not unconstitutional to regulate panhandling. Tacoma has had panhandling regulations since 2007 similar to what is shown below:

1) Maintain a distance from ATM machines – I assume you are in favor of allowing panhandling next to ATM machines.
2) Maintain a distance from the entry to a business – I assume you support no smoking within 25’ of an entry to a business, but are in favor of allowing an unlimited number of panhandlers in front of the entry of a business even it causes a loss of business.
3) No panhandling that disrupts traffic – I assume you support panhandling that disrupts traffic.

The City regulates business, why shouldn’t they regulate panhandling?

You seem to think that people should give directly to the homeless so that they are free to buy drugs, alcohol or what ever they want, instead of the City encouraging residents to give to organization that help the homeless.

I have spoken to a large number of businesses in Down Town Redmond, and the vast majority of them are not happy with what they perceive as a significant increase in the Redmond Down Town Homeless.

I guess we will have to agree to disagree. You do not care how many homeless from other locations come to Redmond; the more the City helps the better. Most Down Town Redmond Businesses and myself do not want more homeless from outside of Redmond to relocate to Down Town Redmond.

Al Rosenthal

Sara Pelfrey said...


Mr. Rosenthal,

Thank you for your response, I apologize for the time between responses, work and school are busy.

Since you seem to imply that I am only talking from opinion, I will try to use the same format that you are addressing me in for clarity.

Point of Discussion:
1) 21 people in a sample size is to little to be able to draw firm correlation. If you would direct your attention to the article, that you make an appearance in, in The Redmond Reporter in the Dec 14th, 2014 issue :
"Colleen Kelly, assistant director of community planning for the city, said about 38 percent of Landing guests are from Redmond and about 60 percent are from the greater Eastside area."

I also would like to discuss what does being from here actually mean. In the Avondale Park focus group, many of the women technically are from a five to ten mile radius of downtown Redmond. (Bothell-Kirkland-Shoreline- Seattle)

Ms. Williams, referred to in Redmond Town Center has been in Redmond for over 5 years (she used to come into my business on a daily basis) She is originally from the MidWest and moved to the Eastside/Seattle over 15 years ago. That was not her story but two security gaurds assumptions about her life and how her actions have made it difficult. Two different things.

The young man in the study off Sammamish says that 90% of the homeless are from Seattle, but that is one person's perspective and even if that was true, we are 8 miles from Seattle.

What I am getting at is that in your letter, your wording leads the readers to think that this is a group of people who have no ties here "They are not even from here". That phasing is misleading at best. And just as a side note, in any study, especially one that has a limited sampling, if you have more information introduced to the scenario that might flush out the situation, it is good practice to incorporate and reevaluate your assertions.

Sara Pelfrey said...


Mr. Rosenthal:

Point of Discussion:
1)I never made a statement of where I stand on panhandling. I simply was reflecting back your choice of words and intentions behind your assertions.
2)Tacoma's panhandling laws do cost the city in time and money. It is one of the strictest panhandling ordinances to date. The ACLU has several issues with it and where as it has decreased in Tacoma the problems shifted to other communities or people changed in how they got their money (read crime). Are you suggesting that we make it a misdemeanor, like Tacoma, and shift the problem to other communities and potentially raise our crime rates? Or are you hoping that it will just decrease "visible homelessness"?

Point of Discussion:
You have spoken to a vast majority of business owners, to reflect back to you your own "question" to me; are your numbers based in fact? You seem to think that if I personally know 21 people who are from here and have experienced homelessness it is not fact, however you are not supplying any names or interviews to your assertions about downtown business owners, so I am less likely to give that any weight. And once again, if you sign as one of the Homeless Task Force, you should probably have those numbers, if you would like to discredit my experience with homelessness in our city.

So, I guess you did clarify, my initial impression of where you and, by virtue of you signing as a task force member, the task force hold the homelessness is a less than polite disdain or at least not worthy of a fuller picture when talking about a proposal.

Thank you for your time

Sara Pelfrey

Al Rosenthal said...

Sara Pelfrey

I do not need to look at the Redmond Reporter Dec 14th 2014 issue, where Colleen Kelly is quoted as stating 38 percent of the Landing guests are from Redmond. I was at the meeting in the Police Station when Colleen made the statement and my questioning City Hall was the reason the meeting was held. The reason Colleen’s statement that 38% of the Landing guests are from Redmond is false, is that a large number of persons checking in at the Landing use the address 16225 NE 87th ST, STE A1, Redmond as their address. This is the address of the Landing. The Landing then counts them as Redmond residents based on that address.

Just last Friday I received Redmond Police Case Report 12-022163. In that Case Report three of the homeless suspects or persons of interest use the Landing as their address. In this Police Case Report there are multiple references to the Landing refusing to cooperate with a Police investigation.

The reason I pulled Case Report 12-022163 is because when I asked the City of Redmond if the Suspect in the Homicide of Richard Bergesen in September of 2014, who also broke into the Redmond Library on December 24, 2012 (The Landing opened in October 2012) was staying at the Landing. The City of Redmond would not answer me. The Case Report confirmed that the Suspect was staying at The Landing in December 2012.

I view the Landing as a problem when they refuse to cooperate with Police investigations of a crime.

Al Rosenthal

Bob Yoder said...

When my family brought in a dinner to the Landing my daughter broke down in tears when she saw and old Redmond High School friend there.

Al Rosenthal said...


I am not saying that nobody staying at the landing was not from Redmond Prior to becoming homeless. When Colleen Kelly did her interviews for the Homeless Task Force and it showed that 21 out of 21 were not from Redmond I was surprised, I expected some to be from Redmond. As far as I know Colleen never told the City about the breakdown of the interviews.

What really bothers me about the Landing is that on their web site they only give two bus routes to use to get there. Route 542 is from the U-district and Route 545 is from the Seattle Business Core. As a Down Town Business person this gives the impression that the Landing is trying to attract homeless persons from Seattle. I do not want to seem heartless to the homeless, but it bothers me when a homeless shelter goes out of their way to attract homeless persons from Seattle.

From the Landing web site:
Bus Routes: Route 542; Route 545; King Co. Metro to Redmond Transit Center (8178 161st Avenue NE, Redmond, WA.)

You probably do not agree with me but hopefully you see that I have some valid points. Most Retail Business will not go on the record about their concerns because they do not want to offend any customers.

I believe part of the problem with homelessness is a cultural problem. Seattle, Bellevue, and Redmond are all have about a 25% Asian population, yet it is very rare to see a homeless Asian person or an Asian panhandler. When I brought this up at the Homeless Task Force, not one of the nine advocates on the Task Force disagreed.