Asylum-seeking refugees relocated once more to spot off Highway 167 in Kent

Jun 3, 2024, 12:29 PM

Asylum-seeking refugees...

Asylum-seeking refugees setting up a new camp in Kent. (Photo: Sam Campbell, KIRO Newsradio)

(Photo: Sam Campbell, KIRO Newsradio)

Sandwiched between the remains of a budget hotel and Highway 167 in Kent, a group of more than a hundred asylum-seeking refugees plead for housing.

Their blue tents — now next to Central Avenue North and a Highway 167 interchange in Kent — were once set up in Seattle’s Central District. Before that, Tukwila. Before that, Kent again. Most of the refugees are from Angola, Congo and Venezuela.

More on the refugee encampment: Hundreds of asylum-seeking refugees create encampment in Central District park

The asylum-seeking refugees have shuffled from place to place as piecemeal funding for hotels ran dry and a church’s efforts became exhausted. The lot adjacent to a now shuttered Econo Lodge gave the refugees another temporary space, with the county hoping this spot can last until they can find jobs and move elsewhere.

Their long-term plan? It’s still up in the air. Differing levels of local government continue to disagree on whose job it is to help them. King County invested approximately $5 million for temporary housing for the refugees, while the state government allotted $30 million — passed by the state legislature — to help create shelter and resources for them.

But King County is reportedly saying “You don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here.”

According to The Seattle Times, the refugees were given notice: Leave their current spot in Kent within 48 hours or be arrested for trespassing.

“Yes, the county issued a letter indicating the group of asylees will need to vacate the premises,” a spokesperson for the King County Executive’s Office stated. “This is because we have a legal agreement with the City of Kent not to use this property for anything other than its original purpose, which was isolation and quarantine use. Therefore, we are abiding by our legal agreement.

“We understand the difficulty in meeting the housing needs of asylum seekers newly arriving here in King County,” the statement continued. “It’s important to put this in the context of the regional housing crisis we are currently in. The need in our region continues to grow. Right now, more than 9,800 people sleep outside in King County every night. This existing crisis has strained available regional shelter and service capacity.”

More from Sam Campbell: Watch for scam phone calls pretending to be law enforcement

Contributing: Frank Sumrall, MyNorthwest

You can read more of Sam Campbell’s stories here. Follow Sam Campbell on X or email him here.

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