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SoDo business owner on homeless response: The city is ‘trying to destroy us’

A homeless RV in Seattle's SoDo lot. (KIRO 7)

SoDo small business owner Leslie Shelton’s faith in her city is gone.

And at a community safety forum with city leaders Tuesday evening at Ballard’s Nordic Museum, she let them know that.

“I tried to sit there and tried to be good — I tried to keep my mouth closed,” she told KIRO Radio’s Dori Monson the next day. “But the more and more I heard, the more and more frustration kept on building up and up and up.”

Her summary of the meeting was, “We need more stats, we need more money, we need more money, we need more money, we need more studies, we need more studies, and then meetings.”

In the meantime, she observed, the homeless RVs are increasing.

RELATED: Georgetown bar owner tired of constant burdens from City of Seattle

Shelton previously came on the Dori Monson Show last fall after she was mauled by dogs belonging to people living in an RV down the street from her business. She said at the time that the city had neither forced the RV owners to move, nor given them a citation. The city later cleared out the homeless camp that contained the RV.

She notices a double-standard in her city constantly when it comes to who is held accountable for breaking city laws, especially in SoDo.

“I am just so sick and tired of the fact that there is not equal accountability in this city … When we had 35 RVs around our block, I would actually watch the Seattle parking enforcement drive around and give tickets to cars, but do nothing to the RVs,” she said. “The double-standard has got to stop. It has just got to stop.”

It makes her feel like the city is actively trying to hurt the regular, hardworking, law-abiding (apart from parking violations) residents, while allowing violent criminals to commit as many crimes as they want.

“How I feel, my husband feels, and a lot of other individuals who I know who are small business owners is, they’re trying to destroy us,” she said. “They’re trying to take everything away. For whom?”

She can only guess that city leaders must want “society to become lawless.”

As Shelton said at the meeting, she wants services given to the people on the streets who want them. For those who don’t, she’d rather see that money go to the police department to better fight crime. Handouts without steps toward recovery just enable those on the streets to keep using drugs and sleeping outdoors.

“Let’s help the moms and the kids, let’s help the young kids who want to get off the streets — I’m all about that,” she said. “But these other individuals? They do not want [help] because they don’t need it, because we give them everything for free.”

Not every project at City Hall is fruitless, however, according to Shelton. She praised the Business Improvement Areas, the 10 locally-managed designated business districts that work toward neighborhood improvements. SoDo BIA Director Erin Goodman has been a great voice for the area’s mom-n-pops, Shelton said.

“They’re our advocates, they’re the ones who are actually trying to get something done, they’re the ones who are out on the streets on a daily basis listening to us, trying to work with the city,” she said.

Still, she said, the city doesn’t allow BIA workers to exercise the full extent of their potential to help businesses. Like police officers, “they’re doing the best they can, but their hands are tied.”

What do Shelton and the other business owners want to see from city leaders? Accountability and honesty.

“They’re sugar-coating it and it’s a bunch of fluff,” she said. “I wish that these people could be honest, that they could actually share with the public, with the Seattle community, exactly what’s going on.”

Listen to the Dori Monson Show weekday afternoons from 12-3 p.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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