Proposed homeless hygiene facility sparks opposition in Ballard

SEATTLE - A local organization wants to build a hygiene facility for the homeless in Ballard - but some who live in the neighborhood of the proposed site say it's not the right location.

The proposed site for the urban rest stop is in the 2000 block of 57th Street - across from a funeral home, near the library and between townhomes.

"We want a place where people can get their lives back together," says Sharon Lee, director of the Low-Income Housing Institute that's proposing the project.

The Urban Rest Stop would provide hygiene services to the homeless - laundry, bathrooms and showers.

"We take it for granted - everybody who has a home. We wake up, shower, brush our teeth," says Lee.

The need for services is growing. There's been a 5 percent increase in Seattle's homeless population compared to a year ago.

Lee says there are not enough public restrooms in Ballard, so many homeless come to the library and take sponge baths out of the sink. If an urban rest stop were available, the library could send people there to clean up, she says.

But some neighbors who live near the proposed site worry about the impact the hygiene center would have on the overall neighborhood and pedestrian traffic.

"We don't think it's an appropriate location for an URS," says one neighbor, Ethan Vaneck. "One of the things we pride ourselves on here in Ballard is the walkability of the community. Walkability doesn't mean large crowds of folks waiting to go into use the bathroom and the laundromat."

Some residents here would rather see the center in a commercial area. Currently, there are two urban rest stops in Seattle - downtown and the University District.

David Rosner, who uses the urban rest stops, says more of them are needed.

"The facilities ... really are helpful to everybody in society," he says.

The proposed site in Ballard is not yet permitted for an urban rest stop. The Low-Income Housing Institute will submit a formal application to the Department of Planning and Development in a few months.