Redmond residents clash over planned hotel homeless shelter
Late last year, Renton City Council passed legislation forcing over 200 homeless residents living in a hotel shelter space to move out by the end of 2021. Now, Redmond residents are pushing back on a similar hotel shelter recently purchased through King County’s Health Through Housing program.
The county purchased what used to be a Silver Cloud Inn at 2122 152nd Avenue Northeast in Redmond, with plans to house as many as 144 homeless individuals. The shelter will include 24/7 onsite staffing, case management, and behavioral health services for its residents.
During a Tuesday evening Redmond City Council meeting, residents spoke out both in support of and against the shelter. The effort opposing it has been led by a group called Safe Eastside, with members voicing concerns during public comments over the potential presence of those with substance abuse problems and/or mental health conditions. Others claimed that the shelter space would make the neighborhood surrounding the Silver Cloud unsafe for existing residents.
“Housing is the end result of the underlying cause,” one commenter said. “If we were to move forward and move people into this hotel as housing, what is the plan in place to truly help people recover from mental health and drug addiction?”
“There is also an element of the homeless population that are simply opportunists,” claimed another. “They are perfectly healthy in mind and body and see an opportunity.”
Commenters opposing the measure urged the council to deny the permits necessary to convert the hotel into a shelter space.
Others at Tuesday’s council meeting disagreed.
“I’ve been shocked by everything I’ve heard tonight, and all the misinformation and the myths that are out there,” a commenter in support of the hotel shelter said. “… To think that everyone who is homeless is a drug abuser is just ludicrous, and I hope that people will educate themselves and get to know people who are homeless.”
“I have listened to people stigmatizing mental health, and to people displaying shocking ignorance about the mechanics of substance abuse disorders,” another commenter added. “When I moved to Redmond years ago, I did not require a background check to move in. Why should our neighbors who happen to be homeless be any different?”
King County’s Health Through Housing initiative aims to create up to 1,600 homeless shelter spaces by acquiring several hotels across the region, having purchased eight spread across Auburn, Federal Way, Seattle, Redmond, and Renton.
In Seattle, early data from University of Washington researchers indicated that homeless individuals living in hotels over a 12-month period saw across-the-board improvements to their lives. Participants in the UW’s study were shaving and showering regularly, getting three meals a day, and were more frequently attending medical appointments. Other data from the city’s homelessness outreach team indicated that newly-opened hotel spaces helped fuel a 132% increase in shelter referrals.