White Center residents tackle immigration & gentrification in recent Summit

Photos courtesy Mel Ponder Photography

White Center community members discussed and shared their input on immigration, gentrification, and affordable housing in a Summit held on Nov. 4, 2017 at Evergreen High School.

A total of 85 community members attended the Summit, despite inclement weather. Presenters included Mari Matsumoto from the Washington Immigrant Defense Group, Yenifer Baynes from Future Wise, and White Center Community Development Association staffers.

The Summit agenda included presentations on Immigration Know Your Rights from Matsumoto and an overview of displacement strategies from Baynes.

Highlights from the 2017 Community Survey were sharedalong with the community engagement process for the Big Idea project, which seeks community input in the planning, design and construction of a Family Resource Center on the old King County Public Health building on SW 108th and 8th Avenue SW. The site currently houses the White Center Food Bank and Mary’s Place, a family homeless shelter. Facilitators from the Khmer, Somali, Spanish, English, and Vietnamese speaking community guided the small group discussions where community members tackled questions relevant to the “Growth Without Displacement” theme.

An overwhelming majority of Summit participants said it was extremely or somewhat important for them to keep their family living near them in White Center. Living close to family not only provided financial support for household expenses, but also served to strengthen the cultural connections of residents. One participant stated that, “Helping each other, saving time and money, saving commuting time, and family closeness during holidays is important to us as a community.” The cost of housing and rent is a major barrier that keeps families from maintaining family and cultural bonds in White Center.

Participants also reported great fear around immigration in the community, resulting in social anxiety especially since there have been reports of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials showing up at local events. Some suggested the creation of a Rapid Response Team and a communications dissemination plan. “We need a way to reach other in the event of an emergency and we need safe places such as churches, community centers, parks, recreation centers,” according to one of the small groups.

Where are White Center’s young people going after graduation? All of the groups shared that many family members are moving to south King County for more affordability; some youth stay with parents, feeling “trapped” at home with no income stream to support themselves. There is great concern that youth are vulnerable to alternative “unsafe” options and community members are concerned that this will lead young people to the wrong path. The small groups report that very few young people own property and have access to resources.

Community members were encouraged to nominate themselves or someone else to be a part of the Big Idea Neighborhood Advisory Council which is being organized to provide community perspective on how to best develop the former site of the King County Public Health building. Interested community members can contact Sili Savusa at [email protected] or [email protected] to nominate or sign up. For the full report, visit the White Center webpage at www.wccda.org/impact.

The White Center Community Development Association (CDA) is a community-based nonprofit organization that promotes a vibrant neighborhood and high quality of life for White Center residents and stakeholders through neighborhood revitalization, family development, and community building.

Learn more at www.wccda.org or the WCCDA Facebook page.

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