Magnuson Community Center is an important ally in Solid Ground’s work to support a healthy, thriving community of people living at our Sand Point Housing Campus. Thankfully, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray has proposed increasing hours at the Community Center. Solid Ground’s Children’s Planner testified to City Council today in support of the expansion. Her comments follow:
Good afternoon Chair Juarez and members of the committee. Thank you for the opportunity to be here today. My name is Chelsea Eickert, I am the Children’s Planner at Solid Ground. I’m here to urge you to increase staffing and operating hours at Magnuson Community Center in order to meet the needs of the community and promote social equity.
Solid Ground is deeply invested in the community in and around Magnuson Park. Our residences in the park currently house nearly 400 formerly homeless people, the majority of whom are children and youth. Sixty-four percent of the children in our residences are kids of color, and 100% are eligible for free and reduced lunch.
The Magnuson Community Center has been a tremendous partner to Solid Ground, generously offering weekly afterschool activities exclusively to the young people who live in our residences at Magnuson Park. The community center also runs an 8-week summer camp called Rock the Park, which serves 60 of our young people and employs six of our teens. Sixty percent of the youth who participate in the community center’s activities are from residences in the park.
I have spent the past year assessing the needs of the children and their families who live in Solid Ground’s residences. During focus groups with youth, I always heard an outpouring of love for Magnuson Community Center. ‘The gym,’ as they call it, is by far their favorite aspect of living in Magnuson Park.
The young people have strong relationships with Community Center staff, especially Cliff Evert, the part-time staff member who facilitates youth groups at Magnuson Community Center. Youth said that they go to the community center for encouragement when they don’t feel heard by adults or when they are feeling disempowered.
By adding 35 hours of operation, Magnuson Community Center can help close the opportunity gap which disproportionately affects the young people living in the park. The Community Center can create more equitable opportunities for young people to heal from trauma, to enhance their skills and development, to feel safe and cared for, and to be embraced for the valuable people they are and who they dream of becoming.