Kirkland leaders write letter to the county expressing support for “imminent” homeless shelter

Kirkland City Council wants the community to be engaged and have input regarding the shelter.

The current Kirkland City Council (Screenshot from City of Kirkland website)

The current Kirkland City Council (Screenshot from City of Kirkland website)

On Jan. 20,The Kirkland City Council and Mayor Penny Sweet, wrote a letter to King County Executive Dow Constantine expressing support for the county to purchase a hotel in Kirkland to be converted into a permanent supportive housing facility under the Health Through Housing Initiative.

Several hotels have been purchased by the county within the last year, many of them, including the Silver Cloud Inn purchase in Redmond, have proven to be somewhat controversial in their respective communities as residents and community members have expressed concerns over fears of increased crime in the area of the shelters, the issue of drug use being permitted in these facilities, the lack of community and city input as well as concerns that communities around King County are being used to mitigate “Seattle’s homelessness problem.”

The housing-first approach of the Health Through Housing program, which levies a small sales tax to raise hundreds of millions in revenue to purchase hotels that will become supportive housing for the chronically homeless, has been touted many times by the King County Executive as being a method of mitigating chronic homelessness with effectiveness supported by University of Washington research.

Constantine and Director of the King County Department of Community and Human Services, Leo Flor, have both emphasized the county’s belief that supportive housing that is non-contingent on behavior changes such as quitting drug use is an important and effective first step before being able to offer the behavioral health and supportive services that the chronically homeless might need to get back on their feet.

In the letter from the Kirkland City Council, Mayor Sweet wrote that the Health Through Housing Initiative aligns with the values and policy goals of the current City Council.

“We view supportive housing as one step in what the City defines as a continuum of care for people experiencing homelessness,” The letter read. “It is a key tactic in hoping to end homelessness in Kirkland and across the county, as it is one of the most cost-effective ways to permanently house people experiencing chronic homelessness.”

In the past, the county had purchased hotels as part of a process separate from the city, however, the county has maintained that the cities in which hotels were purchased would have input into the service providers that would operate the supportive shelter.

In the letter, Kirkland leaders said that they were separate from the negotiation process but also acknowledged that a purchase in Kirkland for the initiative was “imminent.”

Kirkland leaders also wrote that they are preparing to engage the community and include resident input as soon as the purchase is announced and they urged the County to take part in a “community conversation” to discuss issues and goals with the facility.

The letter also asked that the City would be involved in discussions about what percentage of housing units would be set aside for locals of Kirkland and the Eastside. Typically 15 percent of the units have been set aside for locals in other cities as a bare-minimum. The Kirkland City Council is asking for a higher percentage.

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