The parent-led group Keep Kids Safe held a protest outside of Kirkland City Hall on May 17 to show the Kirkland City Council that they do not support housing for the homeless population being placed next to schools.
This issue comes after King County purchased La Quinta Inn (10530 Northup Way) earlier this year to be used as a housing facility for those who are experiencing homelessness.
The organization holds concerns about the low-barrier housing facility being within a close proximity to three schools and one preschool — and what that means for children’s safety. Further concerns arise regarding the city’s lack of public process, according to the group.
Keep Kids Safe claims they support housing for individuals experiencing homelessness and want to work with the city and county to help assist with unhoused populations.
While protesters rallied outside of Kirkland City Hall, Mike Raskin, who has two children in schools located near La Quinta Inn, spoke out at the Kirkland City Council meeting.
“At your own town hall meeting last week, 60% of the people there” were either against or strongly opposed to locating next to a school, said Raskin. “Over 4,000 parents and residents signed a petition saying they support finding solutions for the homeless, but not next to the school.”
Raskin explained how the petitioners have heard King County Human Services Director Leo Flor speak on homelessness, but when asked to show evidence that locating next to a school has been shown to be safe, he has not provided anything.
“Come on, Leo. Show us the proof,” said Raskin, addressing Mayor Penny Sweet. “We shouldn’t be asking, Mayor Sweet. You should be asking Leo to show you the proof.”
Raskin then noted how Kirkland City Councilmembers passed a conditional approval without showing residents proposed conditions. Raskin asked the council if they will allow drug users and sex offenders into the La Quinta Inn facility, and if there are any restrictions in place for those experiencing homelessness.
Raskin suggested placing affordable housing rather than a homeless facility in La Quinta Inn, which would assist those experiencing homelessness, according to Raskin.
On March 31, the organization filed a lawsuit in the Snohomish Superior Court against the City of Kirkland, the Kirkland City Council, King County and the King County Council.
David Wolbrecht, Communications Program Manager for the City of Kirkland, said the city will host a series of small group meetings on the topic of permanent supportive housing at the La Quinta Inn.
“These small group meetings will focus on the terms and conditions necessary to maintain city support of La Quinta Inn as a Health Through Housing site,” said Wolbrecht.
According to a term sheet the council adopted as part of Resolution R-5522, the city of Kirkland believes the La Quinta Inn has the possibility of becoming a successful site for permenant supportive housing if the county and city can agree on the terms outlined in the term sheet.
“The Term Sheet acknowledges the site’s proximity to a large school, and specifically calls for the development of a safety and security plan as well as the city’s review and approval of the future operator of the site, including screening criteria for future tenants,” said Wolbrecht.
Wolbrecht mentioned how those program elements have not yet been decided, but will be informed by community engagement and best practice research within the coming months.
“The upcoming small group community meetings will be an opportunity for community members to ask questions, offer ideas, and talk more about the project,” said Wolbrecht, who mentioned how the feedback from the community will inform the upcoming implementation decisions, including the safety plan and the referral process for tenants.