New Glitch in Downtown School in old Federal Reserve Building

From Publicola (partial):

Last month, federal agencies rejected an application from a coalition of homeless advocates to convert the old Federal Reserve building at 1015 2nd Ave. in downtown Seattle into a comprehensive homeless services center. But homeless advocates like Tristia Bauman "believe that the application was denied…in contravention of federal law” and are calling on the agencies to reconsider the fast-track rejection.

The application, submitted by local homeless services provider Compass Housing Alliance in collaboration with other groups, was officially rejected because of concerns about Compass' ability to guarantee funding, according to a rejection letter from the federal Department of Health and Human Services. (Real Change, one of the center's potential tenants, previously convered the rejection here.) But homeless advocates question this rationale. Bauman, an attorney with the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, wrote in a letter to U.S. Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) last month that the denial is part of "a long history of non-compliance with [relevant legislation] by the federal government.” We have a call out to Sen. Murray. 

In its application to own the property, Compass was joined by two other "Key Participants": the Downtown Emergency Service Center and Catholic Community Services of Western Washington. The three groups agreed to share responsibility for the property after converting it into a comprehensive homeless services center---a sort of central hub for the city's homeless services, which are currently scattered across Seattle. Consolidating services into one location—making them more accessible to the homeless—is a central rationale for coalition's desire to move into one spot. 

According to a June 2nd rejection letter from the Department of Health and Human Services, the reason for the application's rejection was insufficient information about the center’s funding. From the letter: “The applicant’s proposal, while it appears well-thought-out and the key participants have experience obtaining such funds, too little information is presently provided by the applicant…”

A spokesperson for HHS declined to elaborate on the reasoning behind the decision: "HHS has no further comment on the issue."

HHS was responsible for reviewing Compass' application because the application involved homeless services. But the agency which actually owns the property and has authority over the larger process is the General Services Administration. When HHS asked the GSA for more time to ascertain Compass' funding sources, GSA said no. Asked why, a GSA spokesperson said, "GSA moved forward with the disposal process because [HHS] did not give any indication that it would reverse its decision after receipt of the additional information to be provided by Compass Housing Alliance."

I would think if Rep. McDermott (and possibly Senator Murray) support a further explanation of the quick turnaround of the homeless coalition's application, it should be done.  

About the district's own resolution about exploring the idea of using the building as a downtown school:

The GSA Department of Education is currently fielding an application from Seattle Public Schools to use the property to establish a downtown school site. If it doesn’t pan out, the property will go to public auction. But Eisinger emphasized that homeless advocates “are absolutely not in a fight with the school district.”

“We are supportive of the idea of a school downtown,” she said. “But we still think that the federal law calls for the GSA and HHS to prioritize homeless use. And what we have in common with the school district is that we all need Title V [of the McKinney-Vento Act] to be upheld.”

I can ask the district but I think they would agree that the most important issue is for the McKinney-Vento Act (which they, too, are subject to) to be honored.   This may hit the "pause" button for the district which might not be a bad thing.


mirmac1 said…

It's either laugh or cry...
I'm shocked! said…
Preservation folks have filed a lawsuit. Articles indicate a rushed process at the city level. Gee...I wonder who was involved.
I'm Shocked! said…
"Now the Committee For the Preservation of the Seattle Federal Reserve Bank is suing GSA and the city's Landmarks Preservation Board. The committee is led by Art Skolnik, Washington state’s former historic preservation officer, and Seattle architect Jim Daly. The group has already helped get the old bank branch on the National Register of Historic Places and the Washington State Heritage Register.

The committee thinks the building should be designated a Seattle landmark to further help ensure its preservation. It contends that the federal agency and the city have blocked this effort. One of the group's attorneys, Peter Eglick, said city staff members' handling of the nomination "fell far short of appropriate standards."
Kate Martin said…
Downtown is completely overwhelmed with low income housing and services. I really hope that it can become a school and not more social services. It's completely not fair to our downtown to concentrate poverty and services to the extent that it has occurred to date. -Kate
km said…
As a resident of the downtown core, I completely agree with Kate Martin's comments. The DT core already has far too high a concentration of services and housing, and it we simply cannot handle any more.

Given the confluence of issues with the Fed. Reserve building, and the dysfunction of the district, I think it is unlikely that the building will become a DT school. However, there is an architectural firm that sounds like it's ready to do what is necessary to preserve the building, and that would be a good outcome.
Anonymous said…
Does this core include ID and Yesler Terrace? Thing is if you see the wait list, there aren't enough low income housing in Seattle. Once Yesler is torn down, there will be less. Are you confusing homelessness with low income housing? You may want to head out of downtown to RV, White Point, Bitter Lake, or Northgate for concentration of low income housing. Services for the homeless will be where the homeless are found. There are service duplications. It might not be a bad idea to have these non-profits come together under one roof. The folks living on DT streets aren't going away.

urban core
A-mom said…
Wow Kate Martin, very disappointing.

I shall call you:
Kick 'Em Down the Road Kate!
Charlie Mas said…
Kate is right. Social services for the poor and the homeless should be relocated to her neighborhood, and your neighborhood, and every neighborhood, not just concentrated downtown or in low-income neighborhoods. And, to facilitate all of the travel that will be required by this dispersal of services we need to provide the poor and the homeless with ORCA cards so they can travel to Kate's neighborhood, your neighborhood, and every neighborhood.

After all, the location of social services should be done to create parity for Seattle residents, not convenience for the people using the social services.
km said…
Charlie is correct.

And while this is not really the forum for this conversation, I also wanted to clarify for 'urban core,' - the downtown core is Pioneer Square/downtown/Belltown. I'm not 'confusing homelessness with low income housing.' Services and housing for the homeless, many of whom are mentally ill and/or dealing with substance abuse, that are very concentrated in the downtown core.
David said…
I believe Charlie was being facetious. Most of the people needing services are in the downtown core so that is where they should be. They are currently building an urban rest stop in Ballard and there is strong opposition. I'd love to see the reaction if services for the homeless sprung up in Magnolia or Laurelhurst.

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