Tom Douglas to the rescue
  • Tom Douglas to the rescue

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After some heated conflict earlier this summer, local chef Tom Douglas has invited the city’s homeless leaders to do their own fundraiser next to his salmon bake at Victor Steinbrueck Park this Saturday afternoon.

Proceeds from Douglas's event, expected to be held at the south end of the park, will go toward improving park security and the Pike Place Senior Center. The hot dog sale, which will take place at the north end, hopes to raise money for homeless shelters. The senior center and the Downtown Food Bank will be giving out free meals to those who won't be able to afford Douglas's $15-a-plate salmon, courtesy of Starbucks.

The contentions arose in May. When Douglas, a big supporter of a controversial aggressive-panhandling bill that never got enough support to become law, announced that he wanted to raise money to reduce the presence of thugs and panhandlers at the park, the homeless community panicked. Some thought that Douglas was trying to chase them away from the park, a refuge for many of them. Homeless advocacy group SHARE (Seattle Housing And Resource Effort) applied for a permit to hold a hot-dog roast on the same day as the salmon dinner in protest but was denied a permit (Seattle’s Parks and Recreation Department doesn’t issue two permits for the same park the same day).

Pamela Hinckley, CEO of Douglas’s restaurants, got wind of this and invited SHARE over for a discussion. “SHARE thought we are the ones preventing them from holding the wiener sale,” Hinckley said. “I told them that they would be welcome to share the park with us. Our intent is to make the park safe for everyone.” Ultimately, park officials agreed to make an exception and issued two separate permits.

Jerry Thomas of SHARE told The Stranger that Douglas's initial comments about bringing in security guards at the park had been hostile toward the homeless. "He may have had a change of heart since then," Thomas said. "We believe that providing homeless people shelter and a place to sleep is a greater form of security than renting security guards."

Eighty percent of the salmon bake proceeds will fund increased park security.

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