Don’t be swayed by some residents’ objections, Bellevue City Council. It’s time to fulfill your promise to build a homeless shelter for men.

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DON’T be distracted, Bellevue City Council, from fulfilling your promise to build a homeless shelter for men. You’ve already committed to being a part of the solution to a countywide problem.

It’s important to acknowledge the concerns of Bellevue residents who voiced their concerns Monday night and do not want a low-barrier shelter in their city. But the reality is Bellevue already has a low-barrier shelter for men. That shelter is only open in the winter and moves from place to place each fall. Bellevue needs to provide a permanent year-round location for men as they try to put their lives back together.

The proposed site next to the Eastgate Park and Ride for a men’s shelter and supportive, transitional housing is the best option.

Opponents argue there are more appropriate locations. Their favorite is a block from downtown, where 10,000 people live, and a few blocks from a neighborhood of about 4,000 — a much more populated area than the Eastgate site.

The state’s fifth largest city has very few undeveloped areas that are not near neighborhoods and schools and that won’t cost the city and its government and nonprofit partners millions of dollars to acquire the land.

 

The Eastgate site in the King County Public Health parking lot is being considered for a permanent homeless shelter that would be close to healthcare and transportation.  (Steve Ringman/The Seattle Times)
The Eastgate site in the King County Public Health parking lot is being considered for a permanent homeless shelter that would be close to healthcare and transportation. (Steve Ringman/The Seattle Times)

The council should move forward with the most sensible choice, next door to a park-and-ride and a branch of the county public health department, on publicly owned land next to Interstate 90.

Opponents may hope the plan will just fade away if they keep protesting. If that doesn’t work, they say they will take legal action against the city. A better choice would be to work with the city to make sure the shelter is the best it can be and that residents and bus commuters feel safe.

The city council is already working on ways to accomplish that goal, including an increased police presence in the area.

If Bellevue College, which is up a hill behind the proposed shelter and has expressed support for the plan, decides it needs to beef up its security, the city should help the college do so.

At a city council meeting this week, Councilmember Kevin Wallace expressed concerns about importing more homeless to Bellevue: “We want to make sure the scourge that is on Seattle’s doorstep does not come over here.”

Data from the existing men’s shelter shows most of the men who have spent time there this winter list their last address as being in Bellevue or another Eastside community.

Bellevue is a beautiful city, but not without problems. Homeless people are living in vehicles on its cul-de-sacs and in the woods next to its play fields. Crime is low but not unheard of.

People are homeless throughout King County, and everyone has to do their part to give them a safe place to live. Kirkland has committed to do more to serve homeless women and families. Redmond is focused on homeless youth.

Bellevue needs to fulfill its commitment and go from talking about the shelter to getting it built.