Eastside coalition explores permanent winter homeless shelter

July 1, 2014

By Peter Clark

Finding shelter in the winter might get easier in the future for the Eastside’s homeless.

The Issaquah City Council heard a presentation during its June 24 Committee of the Whole meeting about the exploration of opening a permanent winter shelter on the Eastside. Council President Paul Winterstein serves on the Eastside Human Services Forum and said that group initiated the topic in response to growing need.

“That forum hosted a mayors’ breakfast where this idea of potentially creating a regional solution for a permanent winter shelter was brought up,” he said. “It is an idea that is in the incubation stage.”

Currently, the traveling shelter Tent City 4 provides the most space for the Eastside’s homeless throughout the year and its organizers often have difficulty finding locations. In February, Washington state stepped in to allow the shelter to land in Lake Sammamish State Park when no other location was available.

A Regional Coalition of Housing Director Arthur Sullivan presented the topic to the council June 24, representing the organization that took the lead in exploring a possible shelter.

“Every winter, they have to find a new location,” he said about the Eastside’s homeless. “The faith community cannot afford to have the space they’re using for that long a period of time and/or the city regulations do not allow them to be there for more than 60 days.”

He said the options available for winter shelter narrowed while the need grew.

“Our board asked us and said, ‘Why don’t you step in and lead a conversation about this?’” Sullivan said. “So, the outcome of our effort is the concept of a permanent, dedicated space, presumably one for men, and one for women and children.”

He agreed that the idea was still in the very beginning stages and said he recognizes the hurdles that accompany such a plan. However, he said A Regional Coalition of Housing wanted to involve as many residents and governments in finding solutions.

“We know we’re in east King County, we know we’re in a high-cost area and it can be challenging to find locations that work,” Sullivan said. “The idea is to potentially grow public support from the broader community.”

He said the next steps involve identifying what it would take to open a permanent winter shelter and to create an ongoing conversation about the topic on the Eastside.

City Planner Trish Heinonen said the purpose of the presentation was merely to introduce the idea to the council.

“The goal for the presentation is education and awareness,” she said. “It’s more about what we’ve learned in the last five years about shelters on the Eastside and to ask, ‘What’s the need?’”

 

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