Every morning, before students arrive, Seattle Police Department officers working closely with Seattle Academy walk around the campus waking up some of the local homeless individuals who sleep on the steps of the school buildings. “We let them come back so long as they respect our rules,” explains SPD officer John O’Neil. “If we see evidence of any alcohol consumption or drug paraphernalia while they are in the area, they are asked to leave.” The few homeless individuals that return frequently to the area each night are extremely considerate of these requests and even control the kind of street people that come through the area to keep the campus safe and clean.
The Seattle Academy campus is truly an urban environment. Being in the city provides students with a lot of opportunities and interactions that would be impossible to have in any other setting. However, often metropolitan areas hold a variety of people from all sorts of backgrounds. Seattle Academy strives to maintain positive relationships and interactions with all of these individuals to create a safe and pleasant environment for students.
This goal of maintaining positive relationships is almost always attained. One individual who was sleeping on the steps of the SAAS gym for a period of time, ended up going to prison for a short while, before eventually returning to the same block he once slept on to live in transitional housing, where he then managed to turn his life around. After finding a job and procuring a life for himself, the individual returned to SAAS to thank them for the acceptance and humanity they had shown when he had been at his lowest point.
Unbeknownst to many, the Berkey House, which lies between the CUB and Vanderbilt buildings, is transitional housing, often for those with mental disorders reintegrating into society after short stints in prison. Additionally, the building kitty corner to the Stream, known as Michael’s Place is also transitional housing, but targeted towards veterans. A few of the residents of both homes as well as some homeless individuals living in the area pass through campus streets during the day. Thus, Seattle Academy tries to uphold a relationship with these individuals both for the safety of students and the health of the community.
Seattle Academy Transportation and Safety director, Loyal Hanrahan, voices SAAS’s support in the community, saying that they believe “people have the right to move on with their lives.” This viewpoint has made Seattle Academy an auxiliary force for the Berkey House, as faculty are asked to additionally watch residents of the house for shifts in behavior that could indicate failure to take prescribed medication. Officers working with SAAS to keep the campus safe are the primary source of this observation. Trained in what they describe as “crisis intervention,” they are highly qualified and skilled in such monitoring, solidifying the safety of both residents and students.
Members of the Berkey House have also done their part in the past to aide in SAAS’s hard work to maintain the security and health of the school community. Years ago gang members started to approach the school campus during school hours. Berkey House members identified the gang members and promptly told them to leave. “They said, ‘These are our kids, so you won’t come near them,’” recalled Hanrahan. In response the gang members backed off and did not return.
“We make an effort to get to know the individuals on the street surrounding the school,” says Officer O’Neil. “Not only is it important for the safety of students, but also just to preserve the overall sense of community.” This sense of community is something Seattle Academy greatly values, and it can be seen in the way students are able to exist so seamlessly in such a bustling urban environment on a daily basis.