On April 17, Bellevue City Council approved the proposed Eastside Men’s Shelter with a 4-3 vote. Mayor John Stokes, Deputy Mayor John Chelminiak and Councilmember Lynne Robinson voted to give preliminary approval to the men’s shelter. Councilmembers Jennifer Robertson, Conrad Lee and Kevin Wallace voted against the facility. Ernie Simas, the newest councilmember, cast the final vote in favor of it. However, the Eastgate location is not definitive. Simas said, “I think Eastgate could work, I just don’t know if it’s the best place for it to work.”
The council will spend 45 days to determine whether the Eastgate site would be more ideal than another site in Bellevue. The Eastgate site is located at 14350 SE Eastgate Way which is walking distance from Bellevue College and right next to the Eastgate Metro park-and-ride, which many BC students use daily. The Eastgate site is adjacent to a county public-health clinic. Other sites include the Lincoln Center, where a temporary winter shelter is currently located, and a Sound Transit maintenance yard on Bel-Red Road adjacent to a future light rail stop set for completion in 2023.
The proposed shelter would contain 100 beds for homeless men as well as around 50-60 permanent affordable housing units, with a day center with a capacity of approximately 125 men. As a low-barrier shelter, the shelter would not turn away men who have addictions, criminal records or mental-health conditions.
More than 2,800 people signed a petition opposing the Eastgate location, citing their concerns about lowering property values and the threat to public safety. Kathryn Kitchen, a local resident, spoke at a Bellevue Council meeting and said, “The homeless do have problems with addiction, drug use, alcohol. The homeless do bring an increase in crime. I’m not against the shelter. I’m concerned about the location and the proximity to our neighborhood.”
John Carlson, conservative radio host and Bellevue resident, called the Eastgate site below Bellevue College “totally inappropriate.”
“A day center that does not check for criminal backgrounds or outstanding warrants located at the base of a wooded area next to a lightly policed college campus? What could possibly go wrong?” he asked.
BC has not taken a position, although a representative from BC’s student association, Jahkari Singh spoke at a meeting saying “it could be a great service learning opportunity for students.”
Congregations for the Homeless and Imagine Housing support will operate the project. They told Bellevue City Council to approve the project in a timely manner as they are at risk of losing funding due to the lack of certainty. Villette Nolon, interim executive director of Imagine Housing, said that it would be impossible for Congregations for the Homeless and Imagine Housing to create a feasible plan without a specific site. “When you apply for funding, you have to show a significant amount of work that’s already been done,” she said. “You need to have architecture plans in place, EPA studies done, traffic and feasibility studies that have already been done. Funding isn’t given to an [uncertain project].”
These groups have run an emergency men’s shelter in Bellevue since 1993. “We’ve operated the emergency shelter for the past eight years with no major issues,” said Steve Roberts, managing director for Congregations for the Homeless, at a council study session.