In the past, I have been very critical of how the City of Renton government has handled crime and human services issues. I live on Burnett and I have never had a problem with the people going and coming from the Renton Salvation Army Church for the Renton Community Supper.
I have also attended the supper, and the people there are families, seniors, veterans, people out of work, people who I see every day in the community. I did not meet dealers and ne’er-do-wells. It is also unlikely that a homeless person elsewhere in King County is going to spend bus fare or gas just to come to Renton for a free dinner.
I would challenge the notion that the city takes a “hands-off approach to homelessness.” The city supported the construction of the Compass Center veterans housing on South Second Street and Whitworth Avenue, a number of the City Council members and Chief Milosevich are on or have been on the board of the Salvation Army; multiple other members of the city government and staff are also actively involved.
The city has also supported the ARISE program, which is a rotating, interfaith men’s shelter, administered by Catholic Community Services in partnership with REACH (Renton Ecumenical Association of Churches). REACH also established the REACH Center of Hope at Renton City Hall where the Renton jail used to be. The Center of Hope is a drop-in day shelter for women and children; overnight shelter locations rotate in a similar model to ARISE.
We can see that the City of Renton government is actively engaged with community-based organizations and has a hands-on approach to homelessness in our community. The city also collaborates with the Renton Housing Authority, a partnership that is key in the revitalization of the Sunset Neighborhood, a project that aims to provide mixed housing and better access to services.
We know that when people are more active in communities that crime goes down. The solution isn’t police watching the trail; the solution has to be a community-based approach that can be sustained.
When people know their neighbors and use parks and trails, it reduces crime. I walk in the community every day, I use the Cedar River Trail almost every day and I have not seen an increase in sketchy activity, criminals or drug paraphernalia. The Renton Senior Center, the community garden and Jones Park all present opportunities for a more collaborative, interactive community.
As you can see from the results of the 2014 One Night Count, Renton does not have a disproportionately large number of homeless people when compared with other King County communities. There were 96 counted in Renton, 97 in Auburn, 113 in Federal Way, 112 individuals counted riding on Metro Night Owl buses, 2,303 in Seattle and 178 on the east side of King County.
I challenge critics to come up with tangible evidence instead of anecdotal tales of debauchery and crime.