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caption: Part of the complex at Sand Point Housing near Magnuson Park.
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Part of the complex at Sand Point Housing near Magnuson Park.
Credit: Solid Ground

Shakeup sought for complex where Charleena Lyles was shot

A citizens group wants the city of Seattle to investigate management of the low-income housing complex where Charleena Lyles was shot.

The nonprofit Solid Ground manages the complex at Sand Point. In an email sent Wednesday to Mayor Jenny Durkan and the City Council, the group said residents feared eviction if they complained about conditions. The letter also says key staffers had been dismissed, and that the quality of services had declined.

The letter does note the role Solid Ground and other advocates have played in combating the city’s homeless problem.

But the citizens group asks for an impartial ombudsperson to investigate residents’ complaints and for the city to seek alternative management if Solid Ground does not address these concerns.

In a statement, Solid Ground disputed the group's contentions. (You can see the full text of the statement below the group's letter below.)

"While we appreciate their concern for the well-being of our residents, we do not agree with their criticisms, which are 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."

We’re waiting on a response from Durkan’s office and the City Council.

The Sand Point complex includes about 175 apartments. Issues boiled up there after Lyles was shot to death by Seattle police last June.

In December, members of Lyles' family added Solid Ground to a lawsuit against the city, saying Solid Ground was aware that Lyles' mental health was deteriorating in the weeks before she was killed. Solid Ground has said that it provided support for Lyles in the two years she lived at the complex.

Here’s the letter:

Solid Ground’s Sand Point Housing campus is a large community of families and individuals who have come through the often overwhelming experiences of poverty and homelessness.

Solid Ground works to end poverty and undo racism and other oppressions that are root causes of poverty. This is complex work. Its success requires a complex web of partners, including government funders and support systems, non-profit service providers, community volunteers and more.

A group of citizens has written a letter criticizing our operations at our Sand Point Housing campus. While we appreciate their concern for the well-being of our residents, we do not agree with their criticisms, which are 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.

One of the concerns raised in the letter relates to Sand Point staffing. But we note that staffing at Sand Point is not static. It changes based on the needs of the residents, programmatic priorities, and public and private funding.

Moreover, all agencies have turnover in staffing, which occurs for a variety of reasons including professional growth opportunities, retirement, performance issues, supervisory conflicts, and sometimes stress or health issues.

Of course, 2017 was an unusually stressful time for Solid Ground, Sand Point Housing campus residents and our staff following the tragic shooting death of resident Charleena Lyles. This stress did contribute to some recent turnover. In response to this, we brought in temporary additional staff to support the needs of our residents and our regular staff.

Solid Ground remains committed to supporting our staff and residents in their recovery from this traumatic event. We are focused on resiliency, which includes increased staff at critical hours, which is underway. We will continue to assess whether the plan is meeting the needs of our residents and our staff.

As to the letter’s other criticisms, we will not discuss any specific individuals (staff or residents). We have over 180 households and more than 450 residents at Sand Point/Magnuson Park. Our goal is to support each of them where they are in their life journey. We receive daily input that ranges from appreciation and gratitude to constructive feedback and sometimes frustration. All input is important and we work hard to listen, understand and respond to what we receive.

Despite the success stories we support every day, we acknowledge that there is always much to learn. Solid Ground welcomes the City and other partners’ input about how, given funding and systems limitations, we can make Sand Point an even better environment for people to transition from crisis to thriving. To that end, our CEO, Gordon McHenry, Jr. and other agency leaders have been in ongoing communications with the Mayor, City and County Council and other key stakeholders on how we can best serve the City’s vulnerable populations.

We are grateful to those who have stepped up to work together with us through open dialogue to seek better outcomes for our residents and others who struggle with homelessness and poverty throughout our community.

We are grateful to those who have stepped up to work together with us through open dialogue to seek better outcomes for our residents and others who struggle with homelessness and poverty throughout our community.