Paid for by Committee to Reelect Judge North, P.O. Box 27113, Seattle, WA 98165
It's been nearly a year since Joel Romeo Abel was evicted from his longtime home in the heart of Ballard for hoarding. Abel, 68, a frequent visitor to Market Street's Bop Street Records, is partially mute, has autism and was renting a house nearby using a Section 8 housing voucher. In the midst of trying to find temporary housing, Abel's landlord, James Olsen filed a small claims case against him.
On Thursday, the two parties' attorneys reached an out-of-court settlement for $5,000, which could be paid through the Washington State Department of Commerce's landlord mitigation fund. Olsen will have to submit a petition for reimbursement to the department.
"I hope [Olsen] gets the remediation he wants and we can all move forward," said Stacy Gillett, executive director of the Arc of King County, a nonprofit that advocates for people with developmental disabilities.
Abel could still be liable for paying up to $1,670, Gillett explained. If the state commerce department decided to require Abel to pay, the Arc would provide him a loan from the organization's Kevin Schultz Memorial Fund, which is intended to help people with disabilities with housing issues.
In a letter to The Stranger, Olsen alleged that, as a result of Abel's hoarding, the rental unit incurred thousands of dollars worth of damages, including broken appliances and damaged walls. During a phone interview, Olsen accused the Arc of being "derelict" in its care for Abel, whom he has "nothing personal against."
Gillett called Olsen's accusations "totally untrue" and said Abel was made to leave because "repairs needed to be made to the apartment that the landlord did not want to take responsibility for." The Arc executive also noted that the eviction record could "jeopardize his ability to get a [Section 8] voucher" in the future.
But Gillett said she is hoping Abel won't need to use a housing voucher again anytime soon. Last autumn, the Arc partnered with Parkview Services and Provail, nonprofits that provide, respectively, supportive housing and services for people with disabilities to create a space for Abel back in Ballard. The new apartment will be in a renovated garage in a Parkview group home in Ballard, which won't be too far from Abel's old stomping groups on Market Street. Workers are currently awaiting permit approvals for a sprinkler system, water meter, and creation of a new address, Gillett said.
Parkview officials have told the Arc that "Joel could live there for rest of his life...in a space that's made specifically for him," she said.
Officials with the trio of nonprofits are hoping Abel can move into his new apartment by October 1. In the meantime, Abel will have to move from one Provail assisted living facility in Shoreline to another, Gillett said.
Max Wallace, Abel's longtime friend and employee at Bop Street Records, said Abel has been "withdrawn" since moving to Shoreline in September. Wallace launched a GoFundMe campaign to support Abel when he was first evicted last year. The fund has since raised more than $22,000.
Wallace said Abel's new apartment in Ballard "will definitely help because he will get the combination of people looking out for him and [having] independence again." Wallace said he looks forward to taking Abel to local rock shows and regular karaoke nights at the Rickshaw again.
"This is the spot he’s been in for 30-some years," he said. "When he’s here, I kind of see the synapses connect with his surroundings more... People enjoy seeing him and people miss him here. He’s become a celebrity in his own right."