Dealing with the region’s growing homelessness problem is neither easy nor painless.
Take the Bellevue City Council’s effort to fulfill a promise the city made years ago to other Eastside cities. Bellevue said it would build a homeless shelter for men, while Kirkland worked on a shelter for women and children and Redmond focused on homeless youth.
On Monday, the Bellevue City Council took the next step toward this commitment by voting 4-3 to make plans for a men’s shelter next to the Eastgate Park and Ride and across from Interstate 90 in south Bellevue. The council couched its decision by voting to take a closer look at two other possible sites before moving forward on the Eastgate site. Council members showed they were listening to citizens who oppose the Eastgate shelter site they think is too close to neighborhoods and Bellevue College and because it would be a low-barrier shelter that would put very few restrictions on who can stay there.
Some of those council members could lose their jobs during the fall election because of that decision, which is a shame. They deserve praise for understanding that homelessness is a regional problem that every community must play a part in addressing. But they also should be praised for listening to their community and trying to find a better solution that probably won’t satisfy everyone.
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The state’s fifth-largest city is not the only one grappling with this issue. To the south, Auburn and Kent have been engaging their citizens in a conversation about homelessness and what the city should do to address it. So has Issaquah to the east and Kirkland and Redmond to the north.
The city of Auburn recently completed a virtual listening project to hear what the citizens think should be done about the growing problem of homelessness. A task force of business owners, residents, religious leaders, government officials and nonprofit organizations also compiled a long list of projects they hope to pursue, ranging from giving the homeless somewhere to take a shower and do laundry to providing more services and shelter beds.
Auburn Mayor Nancy Backus is proud of her city’s compassionate residents. She says the only complaints she has heard about the city’s plan to open a new temporary shelter with wraparound social services is that it is taking too long to help these people.
Kirkland is working on a plan to build a 24-hour shelter for homeless women and families. The city of Kirkland, along with nonprofits and religious groups, are moving forward on plans for side-by-side shelters for women and families on land owned by The Salt House Lutheran church.
Everyone in the region making an effort to address homelessness should be commended for doing their part. Less judging. More doing.