Neighbors fight proposed homeless shelter in Bellevue

BELLEVUE, Wash. — Neighbors in Bellevue's Eastgate neighborhood are worried about plans for a new homeless men's shelter.

The permanent shelter would be built next to the Eastgate Park and Ride near Bellevue College.




Neighbors say it puts their safety at risk. "Where's the protection for us? We're now vulnerable, " said Lisa Leitner who lives nearby, "We're taking 100 vulnerable men and you're creating a community of several thousand vulnerable people."

"We were blind-sided by the announcement. The planning commission had spent nearly a year working on this project. There was never a homeless shelter mentioned," said neighbor Michelle Wannamaker, "We feel the public has been left out of the process. Had we been involved we might have been able to bring the issues forward and explain to them why this is an inappropriate site."

The property is owned by King County and is in the parking lot of Public Health: Seattle and King County. The city of Bellevue has the property on the top of the list of possible sites.

"It is challenging in a city like Bellevue that is as developed as it is to find a location. We're looking for one that is publicly owned, provides good transit as well as has access to medical services and human services," said Lenka Wright, city of Bellevue spokesperson.

Residents started an online petition to ask the city to find a different location. As of Monday afternoon 2,322 people had signed the petition.

Neighbors worry about public safety.

"It feels very vague and nebulous. For security, people want it to be very well defined," said Stephanie Walter. She said a homeless shelter was never mentioned when the city discussed the plans for Eastgate. "It was discussed Eastgate would become the gateway to Bellevue. That was a pretty exciting proposition for the area to get some economic vitality."

She said that specific area was supposed to become a pedestrian walkway with mixed-use retail.

The shelter will be run by Congregations for the Homeless which is currently operating the Eastside Winter Shelter.

Executive Director David Bowling says the homeless men are already in the community, "We believe strongly these men, they're already living outside right now. There's tons of encampments on the Eastside. It is so much better for all of us if we bring them inside."

Bowling says there will be security around the building. The men will be told to stay out of the residential areas.

"We'll sleep 100 men a night, serve up to 125 guys a day. We're already doing that in this community. We've been doing this on the Eastside since 2008 and we've had a wonderful track record with us being great neighbors," said Bowling.

The Bellevue City Council will discuss the new men's shelter in an extended study session on Monday November 28th at 6 p.m. There will be time for public comment.

No decisions will be made on the site selection that night, according to the city.

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