City of Kirkland hopeful hotel purchase will fill homeless shelter gaps
Mar 31, 2023, 10:17 AM | Updated: 11:58 am
The City of Kirkland believes a new La Quinta Inn will fill vital housing gaps for people experiencing homelessness on the Eastside. The Kirkland City Council just unanimously approved the facility’s use for housing, addiction rehabilitation, and other services.
The facility — located where State Route 520, Northup Way, and Lake Washington Boulevard meet — is a partnership between the City and King County.
The center will be a long-term housing facility with wraparound services like mental health treatment, drug and alcohol rehab, and job counseling.
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“The design of it is for folks to make a home there,” said Kirkland Deputy City Manager of External Affairs Jim Lopez. “What ‘housing first’ is all about is making sure that people have the support they need in order to keep a roof over their head and to live a safe and productive life.”
The county has purchased 11 hotels through its Health Through Housing initiative. County Executive Dow Constantine said during his State of the County Address that these facilities have given shelter to about 600 people so far. The County bought a Silver Cloud Inn in neighboring Redmond in 2021, but this will be the first such facility in Kirkland. The City will be able to refer about two-thirds of the rooms to locals in need.
“It is part of the continuum of care that is so desperately needed in Kirkland, and it’s a critical part of the continuum because it provides permanent housing opportunities to folks in need of it,” Lopez said. “This is really a partnership and a community-led initiative that is centered on the needs of the city and the Eastside, and we’re very appreciative of that.”
The Kirkland hotel will be able to house around 120 people. They will not be able to use illegal drugs on the property, and because of an amendment from the Kirkland City Council, everyone admitted to the hotel must pass a criminal background check.
“This is a significant milestone,” said Kirkland City Councilmember Amy Falcon during last week’s meeting, when the vote was taken. “I’m hopeful and appreciative that our chronically unhoused and disabled community members will have a future permanent home in this building, with the services they need to lead a successful and fulfilling life.”
But not everyone agrees that this is the best path forward. The facility has received pushback from community members because of its proximity to daycare facilities and schools.
One Kirkland parent told KIRO Newsradio she pulled her son out of a daycare facility near the hotel because she was afraid of what might happen.
“Every day, passing the hotel, it gave me a lot of nerves about what could potentially happen,” she said. “I think it will really pose a lot of threats to the neighboring communities, especially with all the kindergartens and daycare facilities around.”
Another mom, who was picking her kids up at a daycare center next door, said she is considering going elsewhere for child care when the hotel opens because she does not think it will be a safe neighborhood anymore.
“Honestly, I’m not very happy about it. It alters the sense of safety and security,” she said. “I lived in San Francisco once, and the experience with having homeless shelters around was not very great.”
Lopez said numerous safety plans will be in place, such as a Good Neighbor Agreement, a Communications Plan, and a Safety Plan with the Kirkland Police Department.
“There’s even kind of an innovative approach we’re taking to have regular community meetings with the operator of the facility and the county,” Lopez said. “And what’s interesting is that both the city and the county have added a community liaison position to this process, so we will have staff directly assigned to be responsive to the needs of the community … The idea is to be proactive and to have these plans help facilitate all of us planning for everything we need to do to make sure that this is a successful endeavor.”
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“The process is not done … After the facility is reopened, there will be continual reports that we receive … and if problems arise down the road, they can be considered with corrective action taken,” said Kirkland City Councilmember Toby Nixon during last week’s council meeting.
Lopez said that the facility is not likely to open until at least the end of the year.
Data from the King County Regional Homelessness Authority estimates that there are 56,000 people who are homeless in King County.