‘A lot of trust being built here’: Community court, food assistance among services at Hwy 99 Neighborhood Office

The front of the Edmonds City Hall Neighborhood Office.

What are we paying for?”

That’s a question that some residents have been asking about the Edmonds City Hall Neighborhood Office, which the city opened in the Highway 99 Safeway Marketplace Complex in March 2022. 

“I think the number-one misconception is that people expect [the Neighborhood City Hall] to operate as the [downtown Edmonds] City Hall does,” said Todd Tatum, who is the city’s director of community services and economic development. “The intent is to address the needs of the city along 99, an adjunct to what the city hall already has in downtown.”

Todd Tatum

The goal of opening the Neighborhood City Hall is to bring public services closer to the communities along Highway 99, including court hearings and mental health assistance. 

Edmonds Community Court is up in that space every Monday in the afternoons,” said Edmonds Municipal Court Judge Whitney Rivera. “We typically put our higher needs of court users up there, although defense councils are also conferring with their clients, figuring out, ‘Hey, this person doesn’t have transportation. Can we set their hearing at the community court since it’s more accessible to public transportation than getting into downtown Edmonds?’”

Probation officers also use the Neighborhood City Hall to teach moral reconation therapy classes on Thursdays. The therapy is used by correctional facilities to treat substance abusers and to improve moral reasoning. 

“These are classes about decision making and [how] emotions affect that for people who are on probation or just have a court case pending but wanted to participate in the class to work toward potential dismissal,” Rivera said. 

At the Neighborhood Office, Edmonds Municipal Court participants can have a virtual hearing with the judge without having to go to downtown Edmonds.

Probation officers also identify what the court users need, such as how to get help with their mental health and place food bank orders, and where they can pick up groceries when they come to court. Substance use disorder evaluators assess court users to determine what treatment they may need, Rivera said.

“We received a state grant, so we’re receiving state funds to pay for a lot of those services, including transportation and ORCA cards,” Rivera explained. “If someone needs an emergency transportation, we have an Uber account to get them to their appointments. So we’re using that space quite regularly and continuing looking to expanding it and working with (City of Edmonds) Human Services in terms of meeting people where they are and helping to address the needs that they have.”

Edmonds Municipal Court Judge Whitney Rivera

While the satellite office offers many of the same services that residents can receive at Edmonds City Hall, such as food assistance and discounts on utilities for seniors, there are some additional services the office provides.

“With the community court, Judge Rivera and our food bank, we coordinated to have food orders in advance for folks who do show up for community court,” said Edmonds Human Services Program Manager Mindy Woods. “They can leave with their ordered bag of food. “Also we have a mobile DSHS unit that comes each month that is helping to connect people to services, such as their EBT food SNAP card and their benefits, that day. That is not something we have down here in Edmonds in the Bowl area.”

A 2019 assessment on homelessness by Edmonds-based consultant Koné reported that 40% of Edmonds residents are “cost-burdened,” meaning that they spend 30% or more of their income on housing expenses. About 8,800 Edmonds residents are near or below the federal poverty level, and at least 450 people are homeless in Edmonds — including 117 K-12 students. Of those who are homeless, 69% reported the lack of affordable housing is the primary reason for homelessness, and 63% said that is the reason for remaining homeless.

Woods said that the Neighborhood City Hall also offers free phone distribution events and on-site mental health services twice a month.

“We’re coordinating right now with Community Health Plan of Washington so that we have people be able to do their medical insurance benefits on the spot, so that’s another service not offered anywhere else,” Woods said. 

The Neighborhood City Hall offers Internet access so visitors can apply for benefits, a Social Security card and other services.

Support service 2-1-1 “has a dedicated resource advocate for South Snohomish County, and we have him in our office twice a month.” Otherwise, people would have to call 2-1-1, wait in a phone queue or a callback, and they might miss that call, she said.

“I even got unhoused people at the waterfront and Bowl area that didn’t have transportation [to go] up there, so we coordinated and got them bus tickets and got them up there, got them a phone and connected them to services they’re looking for,” Woods explained.

Behind the lobby of the Neighborhood City Hall is the courtroom with a big-screen TV where court users and public officials can attend live or virtual hearings with Judge Rivera. There is also a large office toward the back of the neighborhood city hall where Edmonds Police Community Engagement Coordinator Tabatha Shoemake used to work since the city hall’s opening. She recently moved her office back to the downtown Edmonds police station.

“A lot of her job is out there in the community. It doesn’t really change the way the office functions,” Tatum said. “The police are still able to go there and use the office in the rear [of the satellite office] to do reports and things like that. Courts will still have sessions there. Tabatha and the other officers still use the office to meet folks in the community.” 

Because most of the satellite office work and court hearings are private, people who walk by will likely see drawn shades and locked doors. 

“A significant amount of work is going on up there,” said Shannon Burley, deputy director of parks, recreation and human services. “And we need to respect the privacy of those people. That’s really important to us. We’re not gonna parade them in front of the window and go, ‘Yay, this person is getting help!’ It might appear as if there’s not a ton going on. That’s just being humane. As a city, I think we’re doing a remarkable job of ensuring that needs can be met where the needs are.”

Burley said that human services welcomes donations of prepaid cards in small denominations from Safeway and Winco. These grocery chains offer an option that prohibits users from using the card to buy alcohol and tobacco products. Other welcomed donations include bus tickets or bus passes, but no cash.

Administrative Assistant David Bartels takes a phone call at Neighborhood City Hall, located next to the Highway 99 Safeway store. (Photo courtesy City of Edmonds)

“It’s really hard for someone to make clear decisions when they’re hungry,” said Burley. “David [Bartels, the satellite office administrative assistant] encounters people who are actually hungry in that moment. We’ll probably do more dedicated donation drives a couple of times a year because just getting random clothes and shoes and things thrown at us at all times can get a little overwhelming and cumbersome. We will put together some donation drives for the community to keep their neighbors clothed and warm and dry throughout the winter.”

Rivera said that Edmonds residents should not make assumptions that nothing is happening inside the Neighborhood City Hall when they walk by the office and see the shades are half-drawn.

In a recent My Edmonds News opinion piece, a resident took a photo of a shopping cart parked outside of what appeared to be a closed satellite office, and asked how taxpayer dollars were being spent. When that photo was  taken, “community court started one hour later,” Riversa said. “My staff were in that space, if not when the photo was taken, shortly thereafter, meeting [a] substance abuse disorders provider to let them know who was coming to court that day, who was going to need assistance, and the person who was using that cart to store their belongings was inside the community court space when I was in there. So I think to say that ‘it’s not being used, it’s abandoned,’ it is used for the exact purpose that it was intended and services were being provided for people behind those doors. You can’t see what’s happening there, but there are definitely a lot of really good people who are helping those who need help.”

The Neighborhood City Hall also serves as a place of respite for some people who may not need anything at the moment. It is a safe space where Bartels is creating relationships with people in need.

“There’s a lot of trust being built here,” Bartels said. “For the folks who walk in through the door or stick their head in and yell, ‘Thanks for being here! We see the difference.’ They’re different than the people who are complaining because they came here on a Friday and the doors were locked and the shades were half-pulled. But there are people who come in and want to talk about the positive things. They feel safer since we’ve been here. And that’s a collateral. We’re not necessarily patrolling the parking lot, but they feel safer. There’s a greater police presence here. People have a place to come and find help.”

Bartels also recalled that the regional director of T.J. Maxx – located in the same shopping complex – stopped by the Neighborhood City Hall two weeks ago and told Bartels, “Thank you. Shoplifting has gone down since you’ve been here.” The manager from Safeway came over and said the same thing, Bartels said

“A worker from the Dollar Store came over and said that he lost his ID and can’t afford to get a new one. Can we help him do that? And we’re helping him to do that,” Bartels said. In addition a young woman who works at the veterinary clinic next door received information from  Shoemake about a career in law enforcement. 

“We’re inventing as we go because we’re learning about leads everyday,” Bartels said. “People in the Bowl and the woods come up here. We’re finding out ways to connect with other organizations to help find resources for both sides. It’s been awesome.”

The Neighborhood City Hall is open to the public on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. City staff invite residents to  stop by during office hours to check out what services they offer.

— Story and photos by Nick Ng


  1. You’re paying for the privilege of living in Edmonds. That includes the once lawless area of 205th to 212th & 99. You probably thought that was LynnHood or MLT, Nope Edmonds Red Headed Step Child not spoken to since 99 was I-5 (1961) Like putting perfume on a pig unless you provide services. Can’t wait to see what Doces will become someday. Keep up the positive work!

  2. An interesting, behind the scenes view of Court functions. The need for “moral reconation therapy” classes there said it all. Alex in Clockwork Orange? Parking the police cars in the front, instead of hiding them in the rear would maybe add to building the whole community’s trust.

  3. Thanks for being there Dave Bartels offering encouragement and support to those in need!
    Sounds like the area is on an upswing.

    1. They say 60 percent of the population is living paycheck to paycheck. I wonder if high taxes burdensome rules and regulations reckless government spending are contributing to so many people needing help. It seems the more help you offer the more people you attract that need help. Just saw something that Seattle is spending more than a hundred grand per homeless person and the vast majority are still needing help. I am not against helping but where do you draw the line free phones and hotel vouchers seem excessive and will be likely turn into a magnet for more troubled souls to the area to take advantage of our good will.

  4. Thank you, Nick, for getting the word out. Now why doesn’t our public information officer provide this sort of insight how our taxpayer dollars are benefiting the community?

    P.S. I still can’t find any information on this neighborhood city hall on the city’s website.

    1. Thanks, Jim!

      ‘I still can’t find any information on this neighborhood city hall on the city’s website.” Me neither, and I can see why people are rubbing their chins.

  5. I have talked with Dave Bartels and find him to be the right person behind the desk. He is compassionate and wise. This office is a good addition to the area.

  6. I LOVE that Edmonds has done this. Everything about it is thoughtful and intentional. I love that this is a community working to meet the needs of all residents.

  7. This sounds like a good place to me. I hope to see it be open Mon-Friday eventually. I have had a number of jobs in my lifetime. I started as a Dental Assistant in 1980-1991. I worked as a Real Estate Salesperson and in sales all through our county and beyond to the last exit before Canada for the wholesale center in Seattle, in that job I met many along the interstate and Hwy 99. My favorite job however was an Outreach worker for SHD in Everett. Of all my many jobs that was the one I felt to be the most rewarding of all. It didn’t pay as well as some of the others, but it made my heart feel good. I was able to garner the respect of many Homeless Youth working on the street and at Cocoon House in Everett. I also did outreach to businesses all along 99 to give out information and literature in so many different languages it would amaze you. This was for access to care and medical. So, Mr. Bartles is probably sad sometimes but generally feels good when he can help. I am happy this is going well, and I encourage volunteers to try to help too.

  8. In my very imaginary perfect world, we would sell off all of our old city administration, public safety, and maybe even the Library portion of FAC to the private sector for the highest and best uses and get all of our City functions located in the area that needs them most, which isn’t downtown Edmonds. The new Boys and Girls club would also be much better located closer to the greatest need. Hwy 99 is where the bulk of the crime and social service needs are located and that is where the best public transportation sources exist with much better proximity to our new rapid transit system. Part of the long term picture for that area, or close to it, should also be a first class park and recreation area, comparable to the rebuilt Civic Park downtown. We can’t manage any of this, of course, due to bad management and glory projects that we have funded and promoted for the past 30 years. It’s time to stop selling Edmonds to the tourists. visitors, developers and figure out how to best take care of ALL of our residents. I have little expectation, that anyone will actually listen to what I’m saying, but I’m going to keep trying to elect people who might someday.

  9. A simple public relations act is to post the hours the Hwy 99 city hall is open to the public in the window.

    There could also be a light on when people are being served. This does not violate the privacy of those being served. Let’s balance the need for privacy with the need for residents knowing how their tax dollars are being spent.

    1. This is such common sense. If you act sneaky with your posted opening hours, shades half drawn and hiding cars in the back these are the hallmarks of untrustworthy behavior.

  10. I want to commend the services being provided by DAVID BARTELS. He genuinely devotes himself to the needs of homeless, food-insecure, and all those in need in this part of Edmonds. Thank you for your service, David!

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