Bellevue makes plans to do the right thing and build a new homeless shelter.
BELLEVUE is stepping up to build a new, permanent, year-round shelter for homeless men. The need for more housing and services for the poor is evident: Bellevue police found 50 cars being used for shelter in June, and 571 men took advantage of a temporary winter shelter in the city last year.
The idea of building a new men’s shelter is unpopular with some Bellevue residents who are afraid the facility will import trouble from Seattle and other places.
But Bellevue doesn’t need to import homeless people; they’re already there. Just like every other city in the Puget Sound region, Bellevue has its own people who need help. Officials say that number is growing as housing becomes more expensive. People are living in their cars and in tents in the woods.
The Bellevue City Council has set a goal of opening the new shelter — in coalition with Imagine Housing, Congregations for the Homeless and King County — by winter 2018-19. But first the proposal has to get through the public-comment period.
People with homes in Bellevue are asking a lot of questions and raising their voices in person and on social media. Many are not aware how many homeless people there are — the region’s annual One Night Count found 245 people living outside on the Eastside this past January — and how inadequate existing shelters and services are. About 1,200 people are served in Bellevue shelters. Others worry the people living in the men’s shelter will bring crime to their neighborhoods.
But Bellevue already has crime and homeless people, including some living in the woods near those worried neighbors. It’s time to help them, instead of ignoring them and hoping they will go away.
The proposed site for the new shelter is just north of Interstate 90 next to a transit hub and the King County Health Department, in a business district away from schools and most housing. Bellevue College is a short bus ride away, but it always has been a short distance from homeless people living in the woods and under overpasses in Bellevue.
The new shelter would serve up to 100 men each night, plus another 60 people in permanent, supportive housing. The site would also have a drop-in day center offering health and other social services. Three other shelter projects in other Eastside cities are focusing on services for youths, families and adult women. These cities are starting to do their share to help the homeless.
Next time the city of Bellevue or Congregations for the Homeless invites people to comment on the shelter plan, consider sending a thank-you note.