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Everett City Council weighs ban on supportive housing for homeless students in some areas

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EVERETT, Wash. -- A plan to help homeless students and their families find housing is up for a vote in Everett on Wednesday.

Everett City Council scheduled a meeting to decide whether to allow or prohibit supportive housing in single-family neighborhoods. The decision would make or break a proposal that could get several children and their families off the streets.

Everett Public Schools partnered with a nonprofit called Housing Hope to build 34-50 apartment units for homeless students and their families on land owned by the district in the Port Gardner neighborhood.

“In a conversation with the city, there’s good reason to believe that this project would fit in well with this neighborhood,” said Housing Hope CEO Fred Saftstrom.

There are more than 1,200 Everett Public Schools students who experience homelessness. Safstrom said the proposed housing is a solution to help families.

“This is not a cure-all, this isn’t going to answer all of that problem by any means,” said Safstrom. “[Homelessness] has a tremendous negative impact on the graduation rates and the success of those students. If you don’t have the stability of housing it’s hard to get to school, it’s hard to do your homework, it’s hard to focus on the things that these really need to focus on.”

The proposed land for the low-income housing is located next to Sequoia High School, the district’s alternative school. Safstrom said students at Sequoia would receive first priority, followed by other students and families in the district who are homeless.

People who live near the field said they aren't against the idea of helping children. They just don't want the apartments in their neighborhood.

“When I look out my living room window and I see this tree and I see what’s going on, it just makes me sick,” said Carol Duvall, who lives near the field. “There’s just too many factors that make it a bad decision.”

Neighbors said the apartments would clash with the neighborhood, decrease green space and increase traffic on their narrow street.

“I tell people when they’re going really fast, slow down. There’s children here, there’s children there. They’re all over,” said Carla Antonellis, who lives near the field. “They use this as a shortcut instead of using Rutger to come home from work.”

In June, Everett City Council placed a moratorium on the supportive housing ordinance after some neighbors expressed opposition.

“Well first they tried to hide it from us, they didn’t tell us about it until after they had done the deal. And right there that just smells bad,” said Duvall.

Saftstrom said the opposition was expected.

“Sometimes it’s a fear of change, sometimes it’s a fear of the residents that would be moving in and what would that mean to their neighborhood. Sometimes it’s simply a matter of fears about density, traffic,” said Saftstrom. “This isn’t a time for ordinary measures. This is a time for extraordinary actions to be taken to address what is an extremely serious problem. This ordinance was created as being an extraordinary action.”

Neighbors like Duvall say they hope it gets voted down.

“I worry it’s a done deal and it doesn’t matter what we say. And I don’t want to think that way,” said Duvall.

“My husband is for this. The only reason I’m against it is because they’re already building things down at the waterfront. And I want the children to see that’s someday I can be one of those people that owns a boat. I can be successful,” said Antonellis. “They need more opportunity than just this neighborhood. There’s other housing like this already in the neighborhood.”

The City Council meeting is scheduled for Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. There will be time for public input before the city moves forward with a decision.

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