Without shelter space, homeless people in Federal Way had to leave during snowstorm

February's snowstorm was an especially rough time to be homeless.

"We had an extraordinary effort during the snowy season to bring people inside," Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan told reporters Monday.

Durkan said the city created 550 shelter spaces, completed 106 housing assessments and did case management for 700 older adults and adults with disabilities.

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"Not all the cities in our region were either able or willing to do that," Durkan said. "For example, there was one local city whose response to the snow was to authorize one thousand dollars in bus tickets to Seattle because they knew we had shelters. We can't have that, we need to have a regional response."

The city that offered transit passes out of town was Federal Way.

Mayor Jim Ferrell said as the snow moved in, he authorized spending $1,000 on 48 ORCA cards so police could hand them out to people needing shelter.

"The reason I authorized this was on humanitarian grounds, making sure if they needed to get somewhere they weren't stranded," Ferrell said.

Ferrell said only 12 cards were actually distributed, and people might have gone to shelters in Seattle, Kent, Auburn or Renton.

"We did not direct anybody to go to Seattle," Ferrell told KIRO 7.

The mayor’s Facebook post February 8 did specifically mention Seattle.

"I've also authorized up to $1,000 in emergency spending on bus passes to get people to a shelter in Seattle, the only place in King County that has guaranteed not to turn anyone away," the post reads.

The mayor later shared transit information "for those seeking transportation to Seattle via bus."

Ferrell said shelter capacity in Federal Way varies and is mostly in churches.

"We're working with the faith-based community to make sure there is more space and capacities available," Ferrell said.

Farrell said a nonprofit group is working to open a shelter off Pacific Highway South.

He also said the city's community center can only be used as an overnight shelter when the Red Cross is activated.

Farrell said the Red Cross activates when people who have homes are displaced, such as during a power outage.