County hopes to acquire Everett hotel for homeless shelter use during 2022
EVERETT — County leaders explained to the City Council last week how and why the county is seeking to convert a hotel into a temporary homeless shelter.
Three reasons: It’s cheaper, it’s faster for establishing shelter space and it houses people near existing social services and transit.
The county is looking to buy or lease a 125-bed hotel in Everett with an approximately $5 to $10 million initial investment using federal American Rescue Plan Act funds, said Mike Fong, who currently is in charge of prioritizing the county’s ARPA funds.
Nowhere is selected, but county officials hope a location is solidified by next spring, county human services director Mary Jane Brell Vujovic said. A real estate broker is working to find a suitable hotel.
Before the county finalizes a hotel contract, though, it would set up community meetings in the neighborhood to be transparent about the plan.
No City Council member opposed the plan, but some want to see better parity on where social services are distributed.
Everett is “carrying a disproportional amount of services ... it is important to push and pressure other jurisdictions” to step up, Councilman Paul Roberts said.
The county is collaborating with other cities on similar sheltering plans that could become apparent by 2023, Fong told Everett’s elected leaders last week.
The hotel would be manned with 24/7 security and focus on housing the county’s most chronically homeless individuals, who are people who have been on the streets for a year or more.
A humanitarian service provider would be contracted to help the people staying.
The city’s Police Department would work together with the county for placing primarily Everett homeless individuals in the proposed Everett hotel, Brell Vujovic said.
Finding a hotel in Everett would swiftly serve 100 to 150 people in “one fell swoop,” which is a significant chunk of the city’s chronically homeless population, Brell Vujovic said.
There is no formal number for how many homeless individuals are in Everett today. In January 2020, the county’s last Point In Time count, a snapshot look conducted by volunteers, documented 1,132 homeless persons. Among them were 673 people living without any shelter at the time. Of those 673 people, 44 percent, equaling more than 275 individuals, were in Everett, from county data.
State law prohibits cities from banning shelters from opening in any place that allows hotels, unless the city freely allows shelters to open in a majority of its planning zones located within one mile to transit lines, a memorandum from city planning director Yorik Stevens-Wajda explains.
Most of Everett’s existing hotel inventory sits in locations that would require staff administrative approval to be converted to shelter spaces, including notices to all property owners within 150 feet and notices to neighborhood leaders, his memo indicates. The public comment period is 14 days.
The city can choose to have a homeless hotel conversion go through a larger review with public hearings, Stevens-Wajda told the City Council.
Any hotel should have an associated no-sit/no-lie zone placed around it, Councilman Scott Bader said last week. It would be similar to what the council established along Smith Avenue near the Everett Gospel Mission in concert with approving a Pallet Shelter program there. A “no-sit/no-lie” zone prohibits people from lying, sleeping or camping on the sidewalk.
On Nov. 8, a County Council majority set the hotel plan rolling through a vote to approve hiring a real estate broker to locate a hotel in Everett to attempt to negotiate a purchase.
King County has used a similar model of acquiring hotels to shelter homeless individuals.
Snohomish County has been housing homeless individuals in hotels for a while by leasing space inside.
The county received a total of $160 million in federal ARPA funds earlier this year.
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