Resident wants city to offer showers at Anderson Center to the homeless

By Brian Soergel | Apr 14, 2018

Last year, the Edmonds City Council set aside $250,000 in the 2018 budget to address the local homelessness issue. Last month, the council put out a call to vendors who can assist in determining the extent of homelessness in town and to identify services available to the homeless.

An example of the extent recently presented itself.

Luke Distelhorst is president of the Friends of the Edmonds Library and, as such, spends a good amount of time in the library. Recently, he said, library staff requested that the city – which owns the library building – look into whether homeless citizens who visit the library could use the Frances Anderson Center showers for free.

The city also owns the center.

“This is a win-win, as it gives those citizens a place to clean up, and it alleviates certain discomforts for other library patrons,” he wrote in an email to City Councilmember Dave Teitzel.

The two have been having an ongoing discussion on the library’s future.

The request was denied, with the city saying those using the shower pay $3 per shower, or $2 for seniors. There is no fee to drop in for a visit, but there also is a drop-in fee to use the gym and weight room.

“I cannot tell you how angry that made me, especially considering only a couple weeks prior the council had passed (the) $250,000 budget item without any plan in place,” Distelhorst continued in his email to Teitzel.

“I understand you were a dissenting vote on that issue, so I hope you will understand the absurdity of passing a budget like that while not being willing to donate or subtract less than $100 in showers to our Edmonds homeless citizens. The solution was the Friends paid for Frances Anderson Center shower cards, and I am proud we did that, but disappointed that the city failed those citizens.”

Teitzel, a member of the City Council Homelessness Task Force, along with Councilmembers Mike Nelson and Adrienne Fraley-Monillas, said the following in a comment to the Beacon:

"We are fully committed to being proactive in assisting our local homeless population. It's unfortunate Mr. Distelhorst didn't raise his concern with council when the issue arose, as I would certainly have supported identifying city funds to address the issue, and I believe my fellow councilmembers would have reacted similarly.

“We are now in the process of scoping the depth and extent of the homeless issue in our city, and are fully committed to bringing resources to bear to help those suffering from homelessness. This input in invaluable to us as we move ahead in working with partner agencies to find ways to ensure the housing, health and hygiene needs of our local homeless are met."

The Beacon forwarded Distelhorst’s comments to the city and received a reply from Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services Director Carrie Hite.

“We have always allowed homeless individuals to shower here at the Frances Anderson Center, with the purchase of a pass,” she said. “We have also had patrons donate their unused passes for this purpose. We have also had staff here at the community center buy passes for individuals.

“We really are not set up as a hygiene center for the homeless. We do not have towels, soap, shampoo, etc. We do not have janitorial staff to come in and clean throughout the day. We do not have laundry facilities. We do not have the staffing to have continued supervision in the shower areas. With the use of passes, this has allowed our homeless individuals to take showers, but not announce that free showers are available at the Frances Anderson Center.”

Hite said there was at least one frequent visitor who came in to take showers. At first, he spent three to four hours in the locker room, also washing his clothes and hanging them to dry.

“It was a bit difficult for our other patrons, including kids and adults, to even use the locker room when this happened,” she said. “We had a conversation with this gentleman, who completely understood and stopped washing clothes, came in during a time that wasn't as busy and limited his stay in the shower to an hour.”

Hite said the man now has his own apartment.

“This was a win-win,” she said. “But I don't anticipate this would always happen. It takes a lot to manage a hygiene center, and we just are not set up for this.”

Hite said that when library manager Richard Suico approached the Frances Anderson Center, he was cordial and happy to buy passes for library patrons who may need a shower.

“I am surprised to hear that the Friends of the Edmonds Library President Luke Distelhorst was so angry at this action,” Hite said. “ I would encourage him to reach out to us to gain a better understanding of this situation.”

On Wednesday morning, Distelhorst said he had exchanged emails with Hite on Tuesday and said he thinks “something is likely to get worked out.”

The city’s study might also hold a solution.

“If the results of this study show there is a need for a hygiene center,” Hite said, “the council and staff can work together on figuring out where this could be and how to fund it.”

 

 

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