The Womxn’s March passes through Little Saigon on January 21, 2017. • File Photo

The following statement is from Friends of Little Saigon:

When Mayor Murray announced the location for the new Navigation Center, a low-barrier homeless shelter – with few restrictions – that will serve up to 75 individuals at a time, he also revealed, once again, that he cares little for the well-being of the marginalized, poor, and powerless communities of Seattle.

The chosen site for the shelter, at 606 12th Ave South, is one block away from major minority-owned businesses and services like Hau Hau Market, Lam’s Seafood, Thanh Son Tofu, Leschi House, and Summit Sierra Public School. A two-block radius would encompass too many shops, restaurants, and offices to name here. Many of these businesses belong to the Little Saigon community whose members were the last to be informed.

The news was a surprise to everyone in Little Saigon and the Chinatown / International District. Not surprising was the Mayor’s decision-making process, which, as usual, disregarded any input from community members save for an informational meeting scheduled less than a week out, during working hours when many are busy, and after renovations were already underway.

Once again, this community has been put in a frustrating and impossible position between trying to advocate for inclusion, safety, and prosperity of refugees and immigrants while not wanting to oppose another marginalized community also fighting for recognition and support from the city.

We recognize the “state of emergency” that the Mayor declared in regards to homelessness. However, we are gravely concerned when this executive power is used to further marginalize and endanger refugees and immigrants by bypassing permitting, public process, and zoning requirements.

The Friends of Little Saigon, a community organization whose goal is “to preserve and enhance Little Saigon’s cultural, economic and historic vitality,” has worked alongside the City of Seattle over the past five years to address gentrification and displacement of refugee and immigrant communities in the neighborhood through several initiatives and projects, outlined in a letter to the City on Feb. 20, 2017.

However, after years of showing our willingness to participate and collaborate, this relationship with the City is being strained to its limits as our trust is repeatedly broken.

Communities like ours are already feeling the immense pressure and stress coming from the federal administration. A month ago, we happily cheered when Mayor Murray proudly proclaimed that Seattle would be a sanctuary city, saying that immigrants are “our friends, our neighbors, our families.”

It has been one week since we’ve voiced our concerns about feeling “neglected, ignored, and treated as second-class to every City sanctioned project and policy that reaches into the Little Saigon neighborhood” and we have still not received a response from any elected official, including the Mayor.

Well, Mr. Mayor, here is a community of immigrants and people of color who are eagerly looking forward to the day we are treated as a friend, a neighbor, and as family. How will you ensure safety and economic vitality of this neighborhood, while also securing the future of the many people who currently reside and make a living in Little Saigon?

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