Eastside cities need to keep focused on efforts to help the homeless.
SOME Eastside cities have taken another positive step toward helping more people in need.
Kirkland is working on a plan to build a 24-hour shelter for homeless woman and families. The city, along with nonprofits and religious groups, hopes to finalize its site selection for side-by-side shelters for women and families in early 2017. Kirkland residents have generously embraced the idea and the new project seems to be moving forward.
Unfortunately, the future of a similar project in Bellevue is less certain, because of loud opposition from some residents. They fear a homeless shelter near the Eastgate Park-and-Ride will attract more crime, endanger students at nearby Bellevue College, import homeless from Seattle and lower their property values.
Those fears are not supported by data. The Bellevue Police Department says the presence of other men’s shelters have not increased the city’s low violent-crime and property-crime rates — about one violent crime per 1,000 residents and 29-to-35 property crimes per 1,000 residents each year.
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The citizens of Bellevue, Washington’s fifth-largest city, have a responsibility to serve the homeless people who are already living among them. The suburbs are not immune to poverty, substance abuse, mental-health issues and family violence. Those problems all lead to homelessness and people are going to keep living in cars and in the woods in Bellevue and elsewhere until they have better options in their communities.
Homeless shelters are not new to Bellevue. The city has been working with nonprofit Congregations for the Homeless since 2008 to run a men’s winter shelter at various locations. Tent City Four has visited Bellevue numerous times. And its religious congregations have hosted a mobile men’s shelter for many years. The new shelter project would find a permanent home for the Congregation for the Homeless winter men’s shelter and make it year-round.
Although many residents and community leaders have come out in support of the idea of finding a permanent year-round location for the men’s shelter, the opposition has also been vocal.
The Bellevue City Council is expected to vote on the site early next year. Council members should proudly represent the silent majority of Bellevue residents who want to see their city do the right thing for people in need. The planned permanent housing project that is expected to move in next door to the men’s shelter is another much-needed solution.
Seattle is years ahead of its suburban neighbors in addressing homelessness, but it’s reassuring to see cities like Bellevue, Kirkland and Redmond, which has a shelter for homeless youth and young adults, starting to ramp up efforts to help address this problem.