Letters to the Editor

Homeless shelter is just a bad idea

Few in our city object to services for the homeless. I certainly do not.

We know that our tax dollars are used for those services. We are OK with that. Many of us also donate and volunteer for that cause.

Nearly all of us have a warm spot in our heart for the Union Gospel Mission.

An issue like this quickly gets entangled in political correctness and warm fuzziness. In this economy, those are niceties we cannot afford.

This decision needs to be by a process that is clear-eyed and hard-headed. People's livelihoods and Kent's business vitality and resurgence depend on the city not botching this.

We do not concede the high ground – that somehow the Union Gospel Mission and the other proponents of the shelter have an exclusive on the side of the angels. We are all warriors in the battle against homelessness.

I believe that the risks we businesses take and the investments and sacrifices we make for our businesses are every bit as honorable, virtuous and praiseworthy as what our allies like the Union Gospel Mission are doing on the other end of the front line in this battle. I challenge any implication that we are somehow being less compassionate as we take a position to protect the businesses in our city.

I am a longtime Kent resident and business owner. For several years, I have had a special interest in the vitality of our downtown. My business is located a couple of miles from the proposed shelter site, so we are not physically impacted by the shelter. My business depends in substantial part, however, on the vitality of our fellow Kent businesses, so we do consider ourselves a stakeholder in this process.

The city, the Kent Downtown Partnership and Chamber of Commerce have made real progress over the past several years in revitalizing the retail business district in downtown Kent. It has been very difficult, and the successes we have had are incremental and precarious.

Even under the best of circumstances, it would not take much to tip the balance back the other way, and we could find ourselves once again facing increased vacancies, derelict buildings, blight and the homelessness that goes along with that.

At the meeting sponsored by the KDP and the Chamber last Wednesday, representatives of several of the city's retail success stories (grocers, restaurants, professional offices, salons, Kent Station) were nearly unanimous in the view that a shelter in that location would harm the successes they've achieved at the expense of their blood, sweat, tears and financial commitment in our city.

This location may not even be the most beneficial to the city's efforts to deal with homelessness. Please consider putting the same money and effort to the benefit of our many existing services who already make a valiant commitment to deal with the homeless in Kent. Resources may be far better spent helping them in their mission than in bringing in a new player.

If the Union Gospel Mission comes, and if it has the negative effects many of us believe are inevitable, it will put a stigma on all such agencies and efforts, damaging them all in their mission.

I urge the city to return to the drawing board on this one. Your hearts are in the right place, but this is just a bad idea.

– Mike Hanis

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