Plans for the first permanent shelter for homeless men on the Eastside has been in the works for six years, and they are finally getting closer to fulfillment with a site in Bellevue's Eastgate neighborhood.
A permanent men’s shelter in Bellevue may be located on surplus county property on Eastgate Way, about half a mile down the road from a previously proposed site that had generated controversy.
Congregations for the Homeless, which runs the winter-only men’s shelter in Bellevue, announced Wednesday that it would pursue building a permanent shelter at 13620 S.E. Eastgate Way, near the Seattle Humane Society. The site is about a half-mile east from the original proposed location, which some Bellevue residents strongly objected to for being near a park and ride, preschools and Bellevue College.
Congregations for the Homeless executive director David Bowling said he hopes the winter-only shelter, which closes every May, will be able to expand to year-round operations in 2019. Once this happens, the shelter will be operating under an emergency permit that lasts three years.
“Once we go year-round, the clock starts ticking,” Bowling said. “We’re hoping to find a path where we would not have to close down and could continue to provide shelter for men.”
An effort to site the first permanent Eastside shelter for homeless men has been in the planning stages for more than six years. In 2012, Bellevue leaders agreed to build it as part of a bigger plan to get more shelter beds, which are clustered in Seattle, on the Eastside. Since then, Redmond has opened a year-round youth shelter and Kirkland is moving forward with a women’s and family shelter.
But finding a site for the Bellevue men’s shelter has been more difficult. The proposed location in Eastgate drew controversy for months, bringing scores of people to City Council meetings to protest or support the shelter. The issue even bled into Bellevue City Council elections.
After elections, the City Council amended the land-use code and required Congregations for the Homeless to host community meetings before applying for the permit, sign a “Good Neighbor Agreement” with the city, and set up an advisory board of businesses, neighbors and parents of kids who go to school nearby.
Congregations for the Homeless hopes the permanent shelter can be approved and built on the new proposed site within three years, Bowling said. Bellevue Mayor John Chelminiak previously told The Seattle Times the earliest the temporary shelter could become year-round would be 2020 due to public bidding and asbestos in the building. But that time estimate was based on the city doing the work, Bowling said.
“We are exploring options where the city would not be doing the work, which means it wouldn’t be public work and would give us the option to do it more cost-effectively and faster,” he said.
The new site was selected after a review of more than a dozen sites and has the support of King County Executive Dow Constantine and Councilmember Claudia Balducci. The Metropolitan King County Council allocated $2 million for the shelter in November.
Bowling said he’s optimistic the site is less controversial than the old site, since residents’ safety concerns were taken into account, but he expects robust discussion with the community and knows there could be roadblocks.
Seattle Times reporter Scott Greenstone contributed to this report.