When Bellevue, Kirkland and Redmond city leaders first agreed to open permanent, year-round homeless shelters nearly 10 years ago, there were only about 2,600 unsheltered people living in King County. That is less than half the 5,578 people believed to be sleeping outdoors during the 2020 Point in Time count.
Kirkland and Redmond stepped up, following through by creating shelters for families and youth, respectively. But Bellevue’s delayed and haphazard efforts to create a permanent men’s shelter were Exhibit A among those who argue some suburbs are shirking their responsibility to combat this complex regional problem. Now, after a decade of detours and delays, city and King County leaders say they’re finally close to breaking ground. The Eastside’s first permanent, year-round shelter for men is expected to open sometime in 2023.
Years of planning and discussion have led to some positive developments. The 100-bed enhanced shelter will be part of a campus that includes workforce housing and permanent supportive housing.
Last month, Metropolitan King County Council members voted to sell a surplus Eastgate Way property for just under $19 million to a partnership that includes the nonprofit Congregations for the Homeless, which helped bring the pieces together and will operate the shelter. The Bellevue City Council approved the final $4 million for the $186 million project. That adds to funds already secured from the state Department of Commerce, King County, and other Eastside cities, along with more than $130 million in private investments and loans.
This moment is the culmination of years of planning and coordination among private, public and philanthropic partners. It is the result of much hard work. But this is only one small piece of what is needed to fully address the still-growing crisis of homelessness in our region.
When developers break ground on the shelter early next year, it will help restore faith in Bellevue’s commitment to pull its weight in the fight against homelessness, but that is just the beginning. As the new countywide Regional Homelessness Authority begins developing comprehensive plans for tackling the problem in every corner of King County, every city must do its part.