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Exec says King County will buy more hotels to house homeless population

King County Executive Dow Constantine speaking during the 2021 State of the County Address. (Screengrab from King County TV)

In his annual State of the County address, King County Executive Dow Constantine announced that the county is buying a “Health Through Housing” hotel in Seattle’s Uptown neighborhood to house the members of homeless population.

During the COVID-19 pandemic response, the county used three hotels to get people out of cramped shelters and into rooms of their own. A University of Washington study proved that this move was successful, reporting that when people had a place to call home they were not only safer from COVID-19, but felt healthier, more stable, and saw improvements in both their physical and mental health. Constantine says those who were sheltered in their own rooms were also shown to have had more time to focus on long-term goals, like getting a job or a place of their own.

Details on more properties purchased by the county to provide housing to 1,600 chronically homeless residents will be announced in the coming weeks.

Seattle’s two new hotel homeless shelters are now officially open

Constantine said 2020 was a year “marked by distance and despair,” and the county was tested by COVID-19, economic upheaval, and a confrontation of systemic racism. He noted that the county’s guiding principle is to create a welcome community where every person can thrive.

As part of his address, Constantine also spoke to the mobility needs of the county and the improvements coming to Metro. Over the past year, our community had to rely on essential workers, and Constantine says they relied on Metro. Alternative mobility solutions are needed, he says, not only for the health of our economy and workers but for the health of the climate.

King County Council approves zero-emission metro fleet by 2035

“If we don’t solve the climate crisis, none of our work will matter,” Constantine said, adding that we can do something today to pass the planet on to future generations in a better state.

In the third portion of his address, Constantine spoke to the success of the county in limiting the spread of COVID-19 and preventing deaths. The pandemic landed here first, he said, with no roadmap, but King County has seen the lowest rate of COVID infection out of three dozen of the largest counties in the United States.

“If there’s anything we learned in this year, it’s that we must act now, with urgency,” Constantine said, whether that’s in response to saving lives from the pandemic, uprooting systemic racism, upending the negative impacts on our planet, or welcoming those without a home inside.

“The state of King County is strong and ready for a vigorous recovery,” he said.

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