‘Improved shelter’ to accommodate 150 people at the ‘SODO Services Hub’

King County has released an update on plans for its “SODO Service Center,” which will be located near the current site of a 270-bed shelter operated by the Salvation Army.

SEATTLE — King County confirms more details about current plans for a “SODO service center” for 150 homeless Washingtonians.

The plan, first announced in March, has come under increased scrutiny as some residents say they have not received meaningful notice or opportunities to contribute. County officials said they are providing opportunities for public engagement, though they agree more is needed moving forward.

More information about engagement efforts and how to share feedback can be found here.

Starting in September, the county said the site will add “enhanced shelter” amenities near the current site of a 270-bed shelter contracted out to the Salvation Army. The county said the shelter, originally launched in conjunction with the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, was on a lease slated to expire before the cold season. Instead, the county said it extended the lease for five years, planning to use additional land and buildings on site for expanded services — with the help of city funding and in coordination with the King County Regional Homelessness Authority.

According to Leo Flor, director of King County’s Department of Community and Social Services, the hub will include a behavioral health shelter, a 24-hour sobering center and 40 to 50 “pallet shelters,” often referred to as tiny houses.

“We need more shelters. We need more housing. And we need it in all parts of the county,” Flor said. “Renton, Federal Way…Auburn, other parts of Seattle, Issaquah, Kirkland, Redmond. Every time we cite a facility there is reasonable concern and curiosity on the part of the community and one of the questions they often ask is why here? Why this specific location? Sometimes they say it’s too far from services, sometimes too many services. And our answer is that we need it everywhere.

Flor said the hub will house an additional 150 people, alongside the 270 currently served in the Salvation Army shelter. The site was selected based on the success of its current use and the infrastructure available for service continuity. It will also allow the 270-bed site to remain open, with more than 40 bathrooms and support services that have enabled around a third of residents to gain stable employment.

“You don’t have to move an existing use, it’s open, it’s wide, people are already using it as a campsite and we want to be able to provide a better alternative to that,” Flor said. .

In recent weeks, neighbors in the international district of Chinatown have raised concerns about the community’s input into the process, including business owner Tanya Woo. Recently, hundreds of people held a rally to voice their opposition and ask questions about the process.

“Our biggest issue was lack of communication, lack of awareness, lack of transparency,” Woo said. “We have no idea what’s going on, we’re left in the dark and we hear the city and county making important decisions about our community without our input, and we think this is systemic racism. at stake and we demand that our opinions be heard.”

Flor said the county has engaged the community and also needs to do more as the process continues.

“I intend to come into this conversation flexibly and hear with open ears and an open heart what it should be like here, but we are going to be adamant that we need to bring thousands of people inside and this site can be a very important part of that,” Flor said.

In addition to listening to people living nearby, the county is taking feedback from people currently living outside, Flor said. He hopes the conversations surrounding the issue will empower everyone affected by the issue.

“A lot of people will talk about homeless people in a way that subtly or explicitly dehumanizes them,” Flor said. “I think the next step in getting people inside who might have chemical dependency issues, who might have been outside for a long time, is to get them inside and humanize.”

Woo said for her part, and that of many people she spoke with, their issue is not with homeless people in need of shelter. She worries about people who “prey on the homeless” and the associated problems they can bring to neighborhoods. More so, she challenges the government process surrounding the project.

Residents of the International District have also raised concerns about racial equity.

“It feels like King County and the City of Seattle are engaged in this model of institutional racism that they may not be aware they are getting into and they need to know that has to stop,” said Woo.

Flor said he recognizes that many people question whether housing more people in the area constitutes structural racism.

“Structural racism has shaped this whole city and this nation and certainly shows up in the way our society is organized here today, and that’s just plain true and no one will dispute that,” Flor said. “It’s also true that why people who identify as black or African American make up six percent of our county’s population and thirty percent of the homeless and Native people who make up less than one in hundred of the population of our county. The population living on land that originally belonged to them represents 5% of homeless people, it is also a manifestation of structural racism.

Woo said some concerned CID neighbors recently met with representatives from Flor’s office, as well as those from the county executive, mayor, and city and county council members. They asked for a moratorium on the project and were told it wouldn’t happen, but they were invited for a site visit to the current shelter and hope it will lead to more engagement opportunities, he said. she declared.

They plan to rally ahead of upcoming Seattle City Council and King County Council meetings.

Flor said currently about 7,500 people live outdoors in King County.

“We need more shelters. We need more housing. And we need it in all parts of the county,” Flor said.

WATCH: International District community angered by shelter expansion

About Chris Stevenson

Check Also

Iran indicts 11 in murder of paramilitary Basij

Iran has charged 11 people with the killing of a member of the Basij paramilitary …