WHITE CENTER SHELTER: County takes task force’s suggestion, changes plan to ‘family shelter’

(WCN file photo of future shelter site)

By Tracy Record
White Center Now editor

Two and a half months after that tumultuous meeting about a proposed shelter at the former King County Public Health building at 8th SW/SW 108th, the proposal has changed.

At the urging of a small community task force that was formed in the wake of that meeting, the county is now planning a “family shelter” for the space instead of a shelter for single adults and couples. The original plan drew sharp criticisms including its proximity to school and park facilities and the proposal for it to be “no-barrier.”

We just talked with the county’s point person, Housing and Community Development manager Mark Ellerbrook, who will be at tomorrow night’s North Highline Unincorporated Area Council meeting to present a briefing about the new plan.

“The proposal to open it as an (adults-only) shelter is no longer on the table,” Ellerbrook confirmed. They’re also no longer planning to work with the Salvation Army, but instead, they expect the operator will be Mary’s Place, which already runs shelter space for families elsewhere in the region. (Its executive director will join Ellerbrook at the NHUAC meeting.)

Mary’s Place had toured the space “a couple times,” and gave a presentation at last night’s meeting of the task force.

This means a modification in the permit application for changing the building’s use, Ellerbrook said, and that means they’re not likely to be able to open the facility any sooner than January.

The shelter also likely will operate with fewer people than first planned; while they were discussing a capacity of 70 under the original plan, they’re now thinking more like 25 to 30 people, according to Ellerbrook. “Obviously we need more shelter for all populations across the county,” he said. “Countywide, 600 families are in need of shelter.” The prospective client base for the new White Center plan, he said, would be the families of Highline Public Schools student currently experiencing homelessness; as of the most recent county, that includes 36 families with 76 students.

What would the definition of family be in this context? we asked.

As discussed by Mary’s Place, Ellerbrook said, it could be a parent and child – that could include adult children – maybe a single parent, maybe a couple, maybe a multigenerational family. “We need to work through the details.” Mary’s Place has some families in its North Seattle shelter with up to eight members, he said.

While they were touring the site, he added, a family came by “and asked if the shelter was open yet.”

The first step toward this is the permit modification, as they are “trying to figure out” what will be needed, such as, potentially, hygiene facilities. They might open and continue making modifications while they’re already in operation, “so we could get it operating and see what tweaks need to be made.”

What would happen, we asked, to the other people in White Center that the county had planned to serve?

Ellerbrook said the new county budget has $6 million in funding for “two shelters in and around downtown for single adults, 24/7 shelters we were discussing, as the family shelter will now operate … as we do outreach to (people experiencing homelessness) in White Center,” they would hope to be able to point those people toward the future downtown shelters.

How much will the family-shelter plan cost? we asked. Ellerbrook says they don’t yet know what the county’s share of the cost would be and how much Mary’s Place might be able to operate.

Overall, he lauded “a good process (working with) the community at large to really identify the need and the issues in the community” resulting in this change of plans.

But bring your questions to tomorrow’s North Highline Unincorporated Area Council meeting, 7 pm at North Highline Fire District HQ (1243 SW 112th). After that, Ellerbrook says, there will be a second community meeting about the new shelter proposal, but the date’s not yet set – “probably early January.”

BACKSTORY: NHUAC’s September meeting brought first public word of the planned shelter, though the county later acknowledged the plan had been in the works for months. The community task force that generated the family-shelter plan was created following the raucous-at-times September 15th community meeting.

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9 Responses to “WHITE CENTER SHELTER: County takes task force’s suggestion, changes plan to ‘family shelter’”

  1. I like this and don’t like this at the same time. I like that a shelter will open, I like that the Salvation Army is out, and I like that Mary’s Place is in (they are an awesome organization).

    However, I don’t like that everyone else who won’t meet the criteria for this revised shelter plan is still out in the cold with no outreach in the area. Just telling people to go downtown to someplace else is not adequate. We need more resources for shelter and outreach up here in the neighborhood for the people that are chronically homeless and have been here all along.

  2. It’s disgusting that people were are fighting to keep homeless folks on the streets during the wintereign
    Absolutely disgusting. This compromise is a failure that never should have happened. Well done gentrifiers. You should be ashamed of yourselves.

  3. No, it’s not a perfect solution. But it’s a good compromise that reflects the concerns of the community and the efforts — however belated — of the county to partner with its citizens and neighborhoods, instead of ramming a prepackaged plan down their throats without adequate notice or consultation.

    Based on feedback from the meetings, there are plenty of community members who are eager to volunteer at the shelter to support schoolchildren learning and developing despite the tragedy of homelessness. Community buy-in is the only way that a long-term solution for homelessness will be found — and the only way to get that buy-in is to respect the community!

  4. I’m glad we’ll have more spaces to help families… BUT it’s hard to cheer about serving HALF as many people in need simply because some community members are scared of single adults and couples who are homeless and are ALREADY in our community.

  5. No child should sleep outside.

    The number of homeless students in the Highline School District is the 4th highest in the state.

    The number of people housed in the family shelter is likely to grow over time. A roll out based on the completion of building modifications and how things are going makes sense to me.

    A family shelter makes total sense for this location in a residential neighborhood nextdoor to a park and close to schools.

    Seattle announced today that it is going to allow Camp 2nd Chance (on the Seattle side of Myers Way) to extend its stay and expand in size.

    How about putting a few shelters in West Seattle? Better yet, why not build affordable housing in West Seattle? (Yes, in West Seattle. NOT IN Highland Park, Delridge or South Park — IN West Seattle.)

    Tracy was at tonight’s NHUAC meeting so more facts will be available in WCN’s post.

  6. Highland Park and Delridge are part of West Seattle.

    The Seattle Housing Authority has a variety of low-income-housing buildings around West Seattle – 70+ units at Cal-Mor Circle in Morgan Junction, 120+ at Westwood Heights in the Roxhill area, 70+ at Stewart Manor in High Point, 48 at Island View (seniors) in Admiral, 24 at Wildwood Glen in Fauntleroy, 100+ units at Alaska House in The Junction, and that doesn’t count the smaller buildings (I know of one in Gatewood, about a dozen units, because of friends who were living there when they were told they had to leave because it had been sold to the city for low-income housing). And of course there’s the 66-unit DESC Cottage Grove Commons building in Delridge, the Lam-Bow Apts. there that had the fire a few months back …

  7. I consider Highland Park, Westwood, Roxhill, Delridge and South Park to be southwest Seattle.

    West Seattle (west of 35th) needs to do its part to house people who have been and are being displaced in Seattle. There are not enough shelters or low-income housing units in the city. It is not healthy, equitable or just to expect already struggling neighborhoods to carry the burdens that come with concentrated poverty.

    According to a KCHA map dated December of 2015, “White Center” has over 1100 tenant-based Section 8 vouchers (only 14 less than Bellevue). I recently heard that Seattle as a whole is losing vouchers because people can’t find units that are affordable, even with vouchers, in the city. It would be interesting to see a neighborhood breakdown of SHA tenant-based vouchers.

  8. I live in the White Center area precisely because I’ve been priced out of Seattle… on a Section 8 voucher. I had to move out of Seattle right as the housing bubble burst. So much fun. Now I’m getting priced out of here because landlords can raise rent pretty much as they wish. I’m having to pay $55 more this year with virtually no cost-of-living adjustment to recoup the increase. When will it end? (I guess maybe when people in India live in McMansions and Americans are throwing corpses in the sacred Mississippi River because there is no money to bury them.)


    Liz, I agree with other upscale areas housing the homeless. But again, these “families” also need to be vetted, are they family members? do they receive Aid for dependent children, why are these poor souls homeless, were there drug issues, mental health issues, are there criminal issues? are these going to be addressed so that we still must have our safety at heart.