The homeless, as well as the wider community, are waiting for Bellevue to step up its commitment to address this intractable series of problems.
The Bellevue City Council has been talking about doing more for the homeless since before 2012, when Bellevue joined Kirkland and Redmond in a regionwide plan to build more shelters on the Eastside.
Redmond has opened its new youth shelter, and Kirkland has a site and financing, and is getting ready to construct a new women’s and family shelter. And Bellevue? The city is still trying to reach agreement on where, when and if it will build a permanent men’s shelter, as it committed to do six years ago. After abandoning a rocky path toward building near the Eastgate Park-and-Ride largely because of neighborhood opposition, the council recently passed new land-use rules that should allow a shelter site to be chosen in 2019. That’s at least a year behind the latest timeline.
Bellevue Mayor John Chelminiak is still talking about opening a new men’s shelter in 2020 or 2021. But that would require a super quick decision on a location, solid financing agreements, trouble-free permitting, design and construction, and successful community engagement all within the next two years. To call that scenario optimistic would be an understatement.
What happened, Bellevue? The city and its citizens seemed to embrace their responsibility to help address the big regional problem of homelessness. But the City Council is moving so timidly, the will to make a difference seems to be evaporating.
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Not so, says Chelminiak. What council members like to call “the Bellevue Way” takes time. He maintains his timeline isn’t impossible; it’s ambitious.
The homeless in Bellevue are waiting and so is the wider community, which wants Bellevue to step up its commitment to address this intractable series of problems.
Chelminiak and Councilmember Jennifer Robertson have a good answer to that as well.
In the absence of actual shelter construction, Bellevue is considering a stopgap measure. Robertson wants to find a way to keep the city’s temporary winter shelter open year-round. She promised this week that the next time the shelter, which now operates six months a year because of permitting restrictions, opens in the fall, it will not close again until Bellevue has a new permanent shelter to replace it. That decision would cost the city as much as $1 million to do the repairs necessary to keep the current site open. It’s worth the money as long as the short-term solution doesn’t kill the longer-term plan.
People in crisis need to know that Bellevue is willing to do its part now and in the future.