New homeless shelter set to open near BC campus

The Bellevue City Council was tasked with building a permanent low-barrier men’s shelter, and a final consensus has been made on its grounded location. After looking at several potential sites around the city, a decision was made to build the shelter just blocks from the Bellevue College campus at 13620 SE Eastgate Way. Previously, the council had considered two other locations, but those options were quietly ruled out and Eastgate was selected.

A low-barrier shelter operates on the philosophy that we should put a roof over everyone’s head before taking any pre-cautions. Anyone rejected from another shelter is allowed into a low-barrier shelter, and often transported there, regardless of their history of sex offenses, criminal background, refusal of treatment or their level of intoxication. There are also no ID checks, warrant checks or requirements that residents cooperate with a counselor.

This shelter location has been highly criticized for several reasons, all of which have fallen on deaf ears at recent city council meetings. Low-barrier shelters have a history of harming the surrounding areas which they are placed. The St Peter’s shelter near Crossroads saw an increase of 220 percent in all crimes (both minor and major crimes combined within a one-mile radius of shelter location) in the area.

Some of the major concerns locals have include the effect this will have on the immediate area. There are three preschools within a 10 minute walk of the location. The area is primarily residential with many condominiums and townhomes in the immediate vicinity. The area is also adjacent to the wooded site where Cassandra Lynn Oliphant, a pregnant mother of four and former Bellevue College student at the time, was raped and murdered in May 2005 by a homeless man.

Historically, these low-barrier shelters are placed in industrialized areas, avoiding residential zones and proximity to children. Once the shelter is built, it will be there to stay, with an estimated price tag of $19.8 million.

This shelter is not slated to open until 2022. Until then, Bellevue has been tasked with finding a way to continue running the temporary shelter, which is currently located in the Lincoln Center in downtown Bellevue. To continue operating, the building needs some serious repairs, the costs of which are estimated to land between $900,000 and $1.2 million. The council will also need another alternative home while these renovations are completed, and the City Council plans to choose a location during their late April meeting.