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Bellevue council OKs Eastgate for homeless shelter — but will also study 2 other sites

The Bellevue City Council voted Monday night to move forward with plans to build a permanent men’s homeless shelter in Eastgate, but will also take 45 days to look at two other sites.

The Bellevue City Council on Monday night voted 4-3 to move forward with plans to build a permanent men’s homeless shelter in the Eastgate neighborhood near Interstate 90.

But after a lengthy discussion and public testimony, the council added a 45-day period to analyze two alternate sites — one on city-owned property near downtown where the current winter shelter is located and another in a Sound Transit maintenance yard in BelRed.

The decision represented a compromise between three council members who were ready to approve the Eastgate site and develop additional design, financing and safety plans, and three council members who said they wanted answers to those and other questions before selecting a site.

“Forty-five days from now we can look at this with better information,” said Councilmember Ernie Simas, who cast the deciding vote after being appointed to the council just three weeks ago. “If it takes a year longer to build than at Eastgate but it’s a better site, that’s the way we should go.”

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City leaders pledged that any new shelter would reflect Bellevue values, including expectations that it would help the men become self-sufficient and exit homelessness and that the city’s quality of life and public safety be maintained.

The Eastgate site is adjacent to a county public-health clinic, a Metro park-and-ride lot and down a wooded hillside from Bellevue College. The council also agreed to create a project advisory committee made up of neighboring businesses, residents, the police and local congregations to help guide the city’s work on shelter design and operations.

The proposed 100-bed facility would be the first permanent men’s shelter on the Eastside. Bellevue’s current emergency shelter is open from November through April and has had to move four times since 2008 as its temporary sites were sold or redeveloped.

The proposal, which also includes a day center with support services and 50 to 60 units of affordable housing, had strong support from the city’s faith communities. Several dozen members of Eastside congregations packed the standing-room-only council meeting wearing red to show their support for the project.

A formerly homeless man, Robert Odom, told the council that it’s hard to find a job when you show up for an interview with a backpack and a bed roll. He said Congregations for the Homeless, which has operated a year-round men’s shelter that rotates through 12 Eastside churches since 1993, gave him and other men a stable place to move forward with their lives, find jobs and housing.

A representative from Bellevue College’s student association, Jahkari Singh, said some students, faculty and staff have faced…

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