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'It is racist': International District community members push back on planned homeless shelter expansion

Some are saying they were left out of conversations about a homeless shelter expansion in SODO, the International District and Pioneer Square.
Credit: KING 5

SEATTLE — Community members in Seattle's Chinatown International District hosted an informational meeting about a homeless shelter expansion on Thursday at Hing Hay Park.

Some are saying they were left out of conversations about a homeless shelter expansion in SODO, the International District and Pioneer Square.

The county council approved the project back in May. The shelter will house nearly 500 people, and provide space for RV's and a sobering center. The enhanced shelter project costs around $22 million to operate through a variety of funding sources.

Community member Matt Chan spoke at the meeting and stressed that it was not an anti-homeless event.

"It's not the unhoused that are causing the problem. It's a contributing factor to how the city is neglecting this neighborhood," he said.

The neglect has been present for a long time, according to Chan. 

There are already 10 homeless shelters in the neighborhood. Add in the recent Sound Transit re-design plans that would displace five to nineteen businesses and take eleven years of construction.

"The deep community engagement that's needed doesn't take place," Chan said.

He said the city did not consult them about the potential shelter, they just told them it was going to happen.

"The government is supposed to help people, not do things to people," Chan said. "They're deciding what's best for our community with cursory community engagement, and that's just dead wrong."

Many members were able to speak at the Thursday meeting. 

"There are empty lots and empty buildings in white neighborhoods, and the fact that you do not schedule it is racist. Absolutely flat out racist," one said.

If this shelter were to open up at the end of the year as planned, the community just wants accountability.

"They need to provide the structure to keep this neighborhood safe," Chan said. "They need to clear the encampments. The people living in encampments in this area should have first priority to this shelter."

The shelter is proposed to be built by the end of the year.

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