Residents of the nonprofit Sand Point apartment complex and members of nearby community groups raised concerns Feb. 14 about an environment of silencing and retaliation that isolates its vulnerable residents, asking city officials for an independent review of the complex and its facilities.
A letter signed by a range of representatives from community groups, academics and local schools, first published on kuow.org, calls on city leadership to encourage Solid Ground, the organization that runs the housing campus, to provide sufficient case management and services including child care, mental health and life skills training.
They also ask for transparency in Solid Ground’s contracts with the city and an independent ombudsman to study and report back on the campus operations.
The signatories acknowledge Solid Ground’s work to “create community beyond poverty and oppression,” but say that the organization has “fallen short in exhibiting compassion and responsiveness to conditions of daily life on the Sand Point campus.”
Solid Ground released a statement in response to the letter, saying that the criticisms were “based on an incomplete view and understanding of our programs, our operations and those of our property manager, Mercy Housing, and the broader context in which we do our work.”
In that statement, the organization pointed to the violent death of Charleena Lyles, a pregnant mother of four who was shot in her Sand Point apartment by two police officers responding to a call for help that Lyles placed. The tragedy was a source of stress that shook the campus and led to staff turnover, Solid Ground said.
Solid Ground again referenced Lyles in a follow-up email released two days later, noting steps taken since Lyles’ death on June 18, 2017. The timeline provided includes steps like support for community vigils, community meetings, endorsement of an initiative for better police training, a partnership with an outside organization to develop and implement an action plan and on-campus peer supports.
But the letter from residents and supporters and other Sand Point residents say that problems on the campus have persisted for years before June 2017.
“Residents speak of an almost palpable fear of repercussions and distrust among residents and staff; a fear that has been present for several years,” the letter reads. “Indeed, there are reports of apparently retaliatory evictions of residents who have voiced concerns.”
In its response, Sold Ground refused to address reports about individual residents or staff.
Solid Ground clarified Feb. 20 that the timeline had not been produced in reaction to the original letter but was instead an ongoing effort to track what had been done since the shooting.
The tone of the organization’s response troubled Lhorna Murray, a Sand Point resident since 2014 who was featured in a Solid Ground newsletter for her activism and organizing since Lyles’ death.
“It’s defensive and offensive to residents,” Murray said. “I stopped counting dog whistles at about six.”
And, some services advanced by Solid Ground have high barriers to entry, including mental health services that require residents to divulge their personal histories to multiple people without mental health training in order to get a referral.
It’s not sufficient, Murray said.
“We’re not asking for more than they already say they’re providing,” Murray said.
Ashley Archibald is a Staff Reporter covering local government, policy and equity. Have a story idea? She can be can reached at ashleya (at) realchangenews (dot) org. Twitter @AshleyA_RC
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