November 20, 2023
November 16, 2023
When a king tide and stormy weather swept through the South Park neighborhood of Seattle last week, Robin Schwartz looked out her window to three feet of water in her backyard and on the streets. She mopped up three inches of water in her basement, that includes her bedroom, office space, and husband’s workshop. Thanks to a good sump pump, cement floors, and a well-sealed metal door added to her home after previous flooding, the damage in her home was minimal, but many of her neighbors were not so fortunate.
“Most people had two to three feet of water in their basement with anything at or below the waterline destroyed or impacted,” said Schwartz, who works for the Duwamish River Community Coalition, (DRCC), which is directing support, donations, and supplies for impacted community members.
The unprecedented flooding damaged more than 25 homes and impacted more than 85 people in Schwartz’s South Park neighborhood. DRCC has helped place 13 families in temporary housing in local hotels. Many families lost all of their belongings, and their homes will need extensive repair. Appliances and furniture were destroyed and vehicles were damaged.
“This is an emergency situation,” Schwartz said. “We are seeing families that are cold and wet. It feels impossible to start cleaning when you can’t be in your home base. You can’t shower or cook hot food and there is no hot water to clean. Now that the holiday break is over families need to be back to school or work and a lot of people were displaced and are not living in their own homes. This has been devastating to a lot of families here and we are grateful for any help the greater community can lend to us.”
In response, community organizations and City of Seattle agencies have mobilized to support neighbors in need. Seattle Public Utilities coordinated with DRCC to set up sanitation stations, portable toilets, and pop-up showers, and provided emergency housing for some of the families who could not return to their homes.
The Port of Seattle’s Duwamish Valley Community Equity Program joined these efforts, collaborating with DRCC to open up its Duwamish River Community Hub for rest and warmth for families affected by flooding. The HUB, staffed by Port of Seattle volunteers, will be open from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. daily as long as there is a community need. Evening and weekend hours are being added to accommodate community access. The HUB provides food, water, restrooms, and access to laundry via the South Park Suds laundromat next door and also serves as a location to organize volunteers and drop off and receive donated items. There is also free Wi-Fi, laptops, office supplies, and desks for community use.
“It’s been really crucial to supporting folks by providing a warm, safe place,” said Peaches Thomas, Port Program Coordinator, Environmental Engagement.
The Port’s community assistance is the latest action in an equity-oriented partnership created to address environmental justice issues and lack of equitable access to opportunity in the Duwamish Valley. 2022 marked the three-year milestone for Resolution 3767, the Duwamish Valley Community Benefits Commitment, the first community-led environmental justice policy at a port, which harnesses the Port’s economic development mission to promote community partnerships, healthy environments and communities, and economic prosperity. The work is guided by a community advisory group made up of community leaders in the South Park and Georgetown neighbors, called the Port Community Action Team (PCAT).
The Port is working closely with the DRCC, PCAT, and various other community-based organizations to determine the best way forward to support families impacted by flooding and is gathering names of Port staff volunteers to have on hand for future needs. The Port is also interested in joining forces with the City of Seattle’s Duwamish Valley Program to provide further community assistance.
“The Port is eager to help,” Thomas said. “What is important is that we recognize community need and are responsive in finding ways to be proactive.”
DRCC was first on site to provide immediate assistance to families and is now handing off to other community organizations with relevant cultural and background expertise to collect donations and assist families in need. The majority of families affected by the flooding speak English as a second language (Khmer, Spanish, and Vietnamese).
People need things like groceries, cleaning supplies, household items, furniture, appliances, services, transportation assistance, or vehicle repair.
November 20, 2023
November 16, 2023
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