Tonight is the scheduled meeting between the New Hope Baptist Church pastor and the church’s neighbors to continue the conversation about the pastor’s plans for a transitional housing program for recently released felons.
We’ve heard from a neighbor that flyers were distributed that listed the meeting as Thursday. We’re following up with church staff this morning to try and clear that up, and will update this story once we find out.
Update: We’ve placed several calls and left a message, but have not heard back from the church whether the meeting is on. We’ll be there regardless
New information also came out of the EPCPC meeting late last week, where a large contingent of Department of Corrections staffers tried to clear up confusion about their role in the project. Donta Harper, DOC manager for community corrections in King County, said that “the department is not in any sort of agreement or partnership with Mr. Jeffrey,” and that DOC has not had any conversations with the pastor about the project, but that they would try to set up a meeting with him very soon.
However, the lack of an agreement or partnership is not necessarily an obstacle to the project. When prisoners are released to the community, it can be either with or without ongoing supervision. If supervision is not a condition of their release, they can live anywhere they want, including in congregant housing of the type Reverend Jeffrey envisions.
If a felon is released with supervision, then DOC officers have to specifically approve the place where the felon will live. That place could be a group residence such as is planned by New Hope, if DOC staff were confident that it was in the best interest of that person.
Felons under supervision qualify for a $500 monthly housing voucher for the first three months of their release. That voucher has been cited as one way to cover the costs of running the transitional housing project. However, Reverend Jeffrey says that they only expect that vouchers will pay the lease on the building, and that it will not be a profit-making enterprise.
Update: We spoke with Alan Justad from the Seattle Department of Planning and Development, who said that they’ve looked into this specific situation and found that it is a legal duplex, and can house up to 8 unrelated people per unit without any further permits.
Assistant City Attorney Jim Kenny was also at the EPCPC meeting, and said that there could be issues with city permitting as well. A residence of this type could be considered Congregant Housing, which requires a specific permit and additional parking spaces to accomodate all of the residents. Although such a permit does not require public notification, the planning department would accept public comment on the application.
This story has more twists, turns, and complexity than any other we’ve covered. So stay tuned as we all learn more.