October 2016 was when most of the neighbors of the Eastgate community in Bellevue first became aware of plans to site a regional King County low-barrier men’s homeless shelter a short walk from our communities. Like many of us, who have been advocating for causes for the homeless for years, we were concerned about its location and its proximity to schools and residential homes, but thought we should give the process the benefit of doubt, learn more and see how we could get involved.
We were initially led to believe, by members of the City Council and its staff, that this process was just beginning and there were multiple locations being reviewed. That the site in Eastgate was just one of multiple locations being considered and the process of review and public involvement was just beginning. Unfortunately, on Monday April 17th, just 7 short months later, it became abundantly clear we had all been grossly misled and manipulated by the City Government and the Bellevue City Council officially voted to move forward with the siting of the King County regional low-barrier men’s homeless shelter at this site.
Now while the proponents of the shelter, most of whom are well meaning, would have you believe those of us fighting against this, are against support of the homeless, the issues are significantly more complicated. We are blessed, in many ways, to have great examples of how NOT to handle issues of homelessness, very close by. We need just look across Lake Washington at Seattle, to see many examples of what NOT to do.
It is precisely this that leads me, and many of my neighbors, to believe there are ulterior motives not yet revealed, that led the council, despite thoughtful conversation that clearly indicated there were 2 additional viable locations for the siting of this shelter closer to emergency services and further from residential homes, to move forward with the siting of the shelter in Eastgate.
Mayor Stokes and Deputy Mayor Chelmniak would have you believe it’s an issue of time, and potential missed opportunities BUT – could it be that the developers currently slated to begin construction in probably the most viable option for this shelter, are the same developers that significantly funded both the Mayor and Deputy Mayor’s electoral campaigns and who also, were granted the ability to not have to provide much needed affordable housing in their development project, and were also allowed to pay significantly reduced fees-in-lieu of having to provide this much needed affordable housing in Bellevue?!
We shall soon see. The Bellevue City Council may believe they have finally received the green light to move forward. I think the community has been given the green light to do its utmost to unearth and reveal what are the real underlying issues at play here. They are clearly things certain members of the council want to keep hidden. We shall see!