On Feb. 6, Kirkland City Council unanimously cast two votes that included the purchase of land for a shelter intended to house and support women and families experiencing homelessness on the Eastside.
The purchase marks a step forward in a collaborative effort between the city and several homeless shelters and facilities operating in the area.
The purchase of the property acts as part of a city work program that partners with A Regional Coalition for Housing and other nonprofit organizations to build a permanent, 24/7 women’s and family shelter in Kirkland. The property was purchased from the Holy Spirit Lutheran Church for $600,000 and is part of an area presently occupied by the Salt House Church.
The city and the current property owner hope to close the transaction in the next few months.
The 100-bed shelter will offer services that are currently either not provided or only limitedly offered by the various facilities on the Eastside, including on-site case management, housing navigation, access to several service providers and other amenities.
Organizations involved with the project include Catholic Community Services, the New Bethlehem Project (which helps families with children), The Sophia Way (which supports single, adult women), the Salt House Church and the City of Kirkland. Other partners also include Holy Family Catholic Church, St. Louise Catholic Church and the Lake Washington Methodist Church.
“It is a rare thing to have all these groups and the larger groups — the state, the county, ARCH — all pulling in the same direction,” Tracey Dunlap, Kirkland’s deputy city manager, said. “Everybody has been so open to it.”
Though design and construction for the shelter are roughly estimated to start sometime in 2019, there are still some variables that have made exact dates difficult to predict. Dunlap said the state funding cycle, which usually begins in the fall, was delayed due to the belated passing of the capital budget.
Ordinarily, funding would have been distributed in December but because of the setback, the timeline is off-cycle.
“We’re a little cautious about giving a date and creating an expectation because we don’t have total control, though we have a lot of support,” Dunlap said. “We don’t have total control of the funding.”
In total, about $9 million will be spent on the shelter. The New Bethlehem Project and The Sophia Way are helping fund a portion of this for the project, having committed to raising $2 million for the planned shelter. Both intend to respectively raise $1 million with help from the community.
“To me, this is emblematic of what’s going on in the project,” Bill Hallerman, agency director of Catholic Community Services, said. “We have Lutherans and Catholics and the city and Sophia Way and the Methodist folks and all these different folks working together because of a commitment to try to do something about homelessness on the Eastside.”
Rebecca Nightingale, a St. Louise parish member and New Bethlehem fund development committee chair, added, “There has been no answer up until this point” as there has never been a shelter of this kind — one that is open 24/7 and to all demographics — on the Eastside. She said homeless families are often split up because men are not always allowed in certain shelters.
Those involved with the project do not necessarily see the shelter as a solution to homelessness but rather a positive and necessary step. Angela Murray, executive director of The Sophia Way, said it is a reaction to a crisis-response system.
“Crises don’t always happen during business hours,” she said.
Dunlap added that, even once the shelter is built, it will not necessarily be “complete.” They will consider how it will continue to running effectively.
“This isn’t an event,” she said. “This is a continuum.”
In addition to the purchasing of the property for the shelter, the Kirkland council vote also involves the Houghton Court Apartments, which are owned by the city. This property includes 15 spaces between two apartment buildings located at 6705 and 6711 106th Ave. N.E.
Part of this deal entails there be a building swap with the King County Housing Authority, which oversees a building the city leases and uses for park maintenance. Ultimately, the swap will give the city ownership of the parks maintenance building, with KCHA owning the Houghton Courts Apartments.
KCHA intends to attend to repair needs and necessary upgrades while still operating the apartments for public housing.
Through this, council is hoping to push affordable housing in Kirkland forward and keep the city moving toward achieving a 2017-18 work plan item, which seeks to expand maintenance center capacity to fulfill the service needs of the larger city.
The shelter, though, is of particular interest. To city personnel and organizations involved with its eventual construction, the purchase of the property signifies a major step in the right direction.
“It’s a great story about how much this entire community cares and wants to do something,” Kathy Cummings, the city’s communications program manager, said. “Their values are what drive it and enable all of us to work together.”
To contribute financially to the shelter, visit eastsidecares.org.