Home Community Africatown Community Home at Keiro – Nov Meeting

Africatown Community Home at Keiro – Nov Meeting

The newly lit Africatown at Keiro building. Photo: David Yamaguchi

By David Yamaguchi The North American Post

Africatown at Keiro Milestones
Oct 4: Keiro building acquired
Oct 20: Fire inspection passed
Safety: Outdoor lighting installed and 24-hour security begun
Other: Trash removed; building cleaned and painted; 150 new beds and mattresses purchased

On Tuesday evening Nov. 16, the Africatown Community Home at Keiro held its monthly outreach Zoom meeting with over 30 stakeholders attending, including Africatown staff, neighbors, concerned citizens, and City of Seattle employees. Background on this developing story is available in “Keiro Building to Shelter Homeless” (napost.com, Sep. 22) and “Africatown Community Home at Keiro Update” (Oct. 8).

The biggest change since three community outreach meetings in September was a more detailed description of the Africatown at Keiro plan. Its main points are: 

•Africatown at Keiro will house 150 mostly black men, who are the most overrepresented in Seattle’s homeless population. It will reach 150 by a “slow fill” of ten new residents per week.

•Residents will have case management, including behavioral health and employment counseling. The job help will include job searches, resumes, and employment agency partnerships. It may also include work boots, bus tokens, etc.

•Medical care will be provided by mobile van twice a month.

•Alcohol and drugs will not be allowed on the premises.

Progress onsite to date is summarized above. The example rooms appear neat and tidy (p. 2). A later NAP site-visit also showed the yard tidied and fallen leaves removed (Nov. 21).

Notable new hires include Nikisha Richardson, Program Manager, and Patti Pendgraf, Operations Manager (building and grounds). Richardson was previously Program Director and Program Manager for other homeless programs. Pendgraf described the building as “up and running now.” (Its front doors and windows were boarded up when the NAP last visited on Sep. 19.)

Resident rooms. Images: Africatown

In the Q&A following brief staff presentations, a website was described as “a work in progress.”

Among the stakeholder responses, Alfred Kiga, Kawabe House board president and a third-generation resident of the Central District, was the most outspoken critic at the approximately 75-minute meeting. His main concern is Africatown’s “lack of experience running large homeless shelters.” Other issues he raised include a lack of project transparency (budget, funding sources, and metrics of success). Notably, he said that “Kawabe House residents (Asian seniors who live one block southeast) are afraid…” He continued, “All the neighbors want you to be successful, but the Kawabe House board is skeptical.” He would like Africatown to participate in a “good-neighbor commitment.” 

Replying on the funding sources point, Africatown CEO K. Wyking Garrett listed City of Seattle and King County funding and additional fundraising.

Responding to Africatown’s lack of experience and “good neighbor” agreements, Mary Flowers of the City of Seattle responded that “every agency that the city has contracted with was new when they started…” and that “all contractors develop community agreements.” 

As a timeline, Flowers continued, “people will start coming in two weeks and that is when the real work will begin.”

Meeting facilitator Janice Lee promised to “continue to keep in touch” with specific dates for an open house and opening their doors. 

The date and time of the next Africatown at Keiro monthly outreach meeting are not yet set. 

Info: africatownlandtrust.org

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David Yamaguchi is a third-generation Japanese American [Sansei]. He has written for the Post since 2006, at first as a volunteer, later as a paid freelancer. He joined the paper's staff in May 2020, when he began learning how articles flow from Word files through layout to social media.