Eastside News

Construction to begin on Kirkland homeless shelter

It's a first for Kirkland to have a permanent, 24-hour shelter for homeless families in the community.

This comes as authorities still search for the identity of a woman who died outside of a Bellevue church that was once a homeless shelter.

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The new shelter is part of a big shift on the Eastside, a growing recognition that homelessness is not just a big city problem.

The shelter is the result of a unique partnership. Public, private and faith-based communities coming together for the shared purpose of providing much-needed shelter for those who don't have it.

"This whole half-acre is what the city of Kirkland purchased," said Rebecca Nightingale with Catholic Community Services. She stood on the site of the first-ever permanent homeless shelter in the city of Kirkland.

"We're so excited," she exclaimed. And with good reason.

Just days ago, ground was broken on the 19,000-square foot, 100-bed shelter behind The Salt House church. It's designed to meet what Nightingale says is a growing homeless problem here on the Eastside.

"I think a lot of government, city, nonprofit, faith-based organizations have all come together to say 'let's head it off before it gets worse,' " said Nightingale. "And I hope by building this shelter and centralizing the resources that these people need will help create some stability before things get even worse."

That critical need came into sharp focus last winter. An unidentified woman was found dead outside a church in Bellevue that was part of  a rotating shelter system. But the shelter was closed and she succumbed to the cold.

Nightingale said that incident highlighted more need for a central place for homeless families to go.

"The burden of simply getting through the day, of bouncing from leaving an overnight shelter at 7 in the morning to finding a library or Starbucks or grocery store with WI-FI to trying to get kids to school to finding a good day center and then perhaps ending up in a different overnight shelter the next night," she said.

"It's simply a rinse and repeat cycle. The burden of getting through the day leaves no time to look for a job to look for housing to provide any type of stability for their family or themselves to get back on their feet. And that's what this shelter's trying to do."

She said the fencing will go up in a couple of weeks, then construction will begin on the $10-million shelter. It's expected to be up and running by the summer of 2020.

Also, the King County Medical Examiner says the woman who died in Bellevue still hasn't been identified. Anyone who knows her is asked to call police.