by James Whitely -
SGN Staff Writer
Urban Rest Stop Thank You
Community Street Fair
Urban Rest Stop (1924 9th Ave.)
The Urban Rest Stop (URS) will be celebrating its 10th anniversary with the URS Thank You Community Street Fair on Saturday, August 28. The Urban Rest Stop is a program of the Low-Income Housing Institute, which provides a clean, safe, and welcoming facility where homeless individuals and families can use restrooms, showers, laundry machines, and various other services for free.
'Basically it's a toolbox where they come, use the services, and move on,' said Ronni Gilboa, program manager of URS. Gilboa was hired in 1999 when the URS opened its doors, and is the first and only person to fill the position of program manager.
"Usually shelters don't have showers or washing machines. So when people are getting ready to work & they need to be clean, they need to be presentable," Gilboa told SGN.
According to Gilboa, approximately 60% of people who use the rest stop are working.
"It's not just day laborers, but people in retail, people who are pulling your coffee, people who are standing behind the counter, people who are doing security."
Because of the recession, or "depression" as Gilboa refers to it, URS usage has skyrocketed.
"[In] 2007 we started noticing basically a 10% increase each month. & It's a problem," said Gilboa.
URS sees about 500-800 people each day using their services, and according to Gilboa, for every person URS can accommodate, five or six have to be turned away. Still, URS is forced to enforce time limits for their services.
"I could put in more Urban Rest Stops in different neighborhoods & and downtown, and still they'd be [functioning] at capacity within a month," Gilboa told SGN.
In addition to their services, URS also offers organic soaps, razors, and shaving cream for men and women, foot powder, toothbrushes, and towels, along with peace of mind.
"It kind of acts almost like a portal for people, because it's a way to get connected with other services," said Gilboa.
URS also offers weekly visits from nurses from Public Health Seattle & King County, daily housing, and employment assistance and counseling, monthly vaccinations for hepatitis, a monthly visit from a podiatrist, and other services. In the future, Gilboa says that she hopes to be able to provide HIV/AIDS testing and services designed specifically for veterans.
"When folks are done using us, you can't tell them apart from anyone else," said Gilboa.
"Also," added Gilboa, "it's exceedingly hard to be homeless. & Often you don't want to be identified."
For Gilboa, it comes down to equity. She recognizes that the U.N. Charter demands access to clean water and recognizes that homelessness is a public health issue. It's why she does the work she does. According to her, URS also helps to support the local economy by sustaining workers.
The URS Thank You Community Street Fair will run from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, August 28 at 1924 9th Ave., outside the Urban Rest Stop. The street fair will feature carnival games, food vendors, and lots of family-friendly activities.
URS has requested Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn and various Seattle City Council Members to participate in a dunk tank - though whether or not they'll actually show is still left to speculation.
For more information on the Urban Rest Stop, visit them online at www.urbanreststop.org.
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