City councilmember ‘pensive’ about halted CID shelter expansion

Oct 17, 2022, 8:15 AM | Updated: 9:46 am
Photo from Flickr @CarlosSanchez

Seattle City Councilmember Tammy Morales, who oversees the Chinatown-International District (CID), says she feels “pensive” about the County Executive’s decision to end plans to expand a homeless shelter.

King County Executive Dow Constantine says an additional 150 beds planned for the Salvation Army-operated Lighthouse Shelter will not be added. Instead, the facility will continue as it is, with 270 beds available every night.

Protesters outside Seattle City Hall denounce planned SODO homeless shelter

The Salvation Army’s shelter will continue receiving operations funding from King County and Seattle through the King County Regional Homelessness Authority (KCRHA) and will remain in its location on county-leased property.

“Over the past six weeks, community members have shared their feedback about the current state of public safety and other concerns in the Chinatown-International District and surrounding neighborhoods. It is clear that building trust and resolving underlying concerns about the conditions in the community today will take considerable time before we can move forward with any added service capacity. At the same time, the crisis of homelessness — and the health of every person living outside — requires urgent and immediate action,” said Constantine.

The existing operation in SODO, which began in 2021, will continue operating over the next five years. The site provides enhanced shelter that allows a person to stabilize without having to check out every morning and check back in every night.

In a statement, Morales expressed concern about the decision, saying she “received this news with pensiveness,” and the decision should not have been made without community input and a proper mitigation strategy.

“The rollout of information around the proposed shelter expansion perpetuated the trauma that the CID community has experienced. In my discussions with community members, they have expressed frustration with a lack of transparency in government planning processes in the neighborhood. This lack of transparency allowed for bad-faith political actors without ties to the CID, such as a conservative think tank, to co-opt the narrative and cloud organic neighborhood resistance. ”

But, she says there remains a need for more sanitation services, as well as mental and behavioral health services in the CID.

“While this expansion has halted, there remains an immense need for the types of services that have been proposed by the County,” Morales continued. “Each night, thousands of people sleep on the streets and every year too many people are dying. We need to act with the urgency this crisis deserves so that we can best serve all our neighbors moving forward, both housed and unhoused.”

Part of the reason why Constantine decided not to move forward with the plan is due to the funding being “one-time Federal money that comes with time constraints,” leading to the county to decide it is easier to shift gears and create a separate project to use the money for. While there is no plan currently for where the funding will be redirected, Constantine said that the county would pivot swiftly to not lose out on the financing.

“Recognizing these competing tensions, it is incumbent on King County to change course so we can utilize term-limited, one-time federal funding and invest in actionable projects in the months ahead. None of these problems will be solved without building more housing and safe, dignified shelter, and we will continue to seek out opportunities in every part of the region to bring more of our neighbors inside,” Constantine said.

Lisa Brooks contributed to this report. 

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City councilmember ‘pensive’ about halted CID shelter expansion