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Neighbors in Seattle's CID say safety issues could mount if homeless shelter expands


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A massive expansion of a homeless shelter is causing a lot of concern in the Chinatown International District. Neighbors said they are heavily impacted by homeless services in the area already and this enhanced site could be the breaking point.

There are already five homeless shelters or housing facilities that already operate in or around the CID and ongoing safety concerns have been the result, according to neighbors.

Many agree the services this shelter would provide are needed but want the county to put them somewhere else.

A shelter is already operating at 1039 6th Ave S that is run by The Salvation Army. However, when plans began circulating that the SoDo site would undergo a major expansion, neighbors a block north were caught off guard.

“There has been no engagement at all,” said Gary Lee, who is with the CID Public Safety Council.

King County is spearheading the expansion effort with help from the King County Regional Homelessness Authority and the city of Seattle. The project would add 150 beds to the existing shelter. Also included would be a sobering center, a tiny house village, parking for RVs, and a mental health treatment facility.

People in the CID said if it's anything like the Navigation Center on 12th Ave S, the result will be a disaster.

“What we've seen as a backlash is just an increase in the victimization of people in the neighborhood,” said Julie Neilson, who works in the CID.

A spokesperson for the King County Department of Community and Human Services emailed a response clarifying that the expansion can help more people get off the streets.

According to the email, “King County, City of Seattle, and KCRHA connected with more than a dozen community groups before the lease was transmitted to the King County Council. We also conducted two community meetings after the lease was approved by Council. SODO BIA hosted the first meeting and the CID Public Safety Council hosted the second meeting. King County continues to join monthly CID Public Safety Council meetings. KCRHA intends to hire a dedicated outreach person to work directly with the CID community as part of this project, and KCRHA Systems Advocates are on the ground in the CID making connections with people living unsheltered as part of Partnership for Zero.”

“I have no idea how they notified the community and I don't think anybody knows in the community,” Lee said.

Given the issues already in place, neighbors said adding another homeless facility feels like city and county leaders are taking advantage of the cultural history of the area.

“The fact that we speak several different languages, that we don't want to make waves, that we are Asian - they are taking advantage of all those aspects to just bring this to the community without engaging us and I find that very racist,” said Tanya Woo, a volunteer with Chinatown International District Community Watch.

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As outreach continues, the county said the timeline to open this enhanced facility is set for sometime in late fall.

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