May 14, 2014
Vol: 21 No: 20


Effort to create homeless shelter on the edge of Kent’s downtown faces resistance from city council

By Aaron Burkhalter / Staff Reporter

Pam Culver, a volunteer for KentHOPE, hands out signed postcards to the Kent City Council at a meeting May 6. She and others with KentHOPE want a nod of approval from the city council to locate a 24-hour shelter and day center on Lincoln Avenue, west of downtown Kent.

Photo by Rowland Bradley

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They have the money and the staff, but Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission won’t open a 24-hour shelter and day center in Kent without a nod of approval from the city’s elected leaders.

KentHOPE, a consortium of churches, and Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission are prepared to purchase a $400,000 property at 307 N. Lincoln Ave., just west of Kent’s downtown core. The organizations want to purchase the property, tear down the vacant building and build a two-story shelter for up to 150 men and women.

UGM officials like the location, but are working to get support from city officials, businesses and residents, who have in the past been reluctant to build a shelter in Kent, said Mike Johnson, special projects director.

“These are ongoing conversations and they’re very sensitive,” he said.

Members of KentHOPE presented more than 1,000 signed postcards to the Kent City Council May 6 hoping to persuade the council to agree to the location.

Some members of the city council have said they would prefer that the shelter instead be located in the city’s warehouse district. The property on North Lincoln Avenue is too close to downtown, said Councilmember Dana Ralph.

“It’s right in the downtown core,” Ralph said. “It’s not that Kent or the city or anyone is denying that some sort of additional services for the homeless [are] necessary.”

KentHOPE and other proponents say the property is a good compromise. It is farther away from Kent’s downtown than an existing food bank, but still close enough to serve the homeless people in the city center.

“The time is right, the need is there, the location is right, the players are right and the city has the legal and moral responsibility under the 10-year plan to end homelessness,” said Kent resident George Adams to the city council May 6. “Let’s get it done now. Do not try to ship the shelter to the industrial area just because homelessness is an inconvenient truth.”

KentHOPE has tried to lease or purchase three buildings in the past, but opposition from city officials, law enforcement and local businesses squelched the effort.

KentHOPE organizers tried to convince the city council to locate the 24-hour center in a city-owned building, but the city council rejected the proposal. Other property owners backed away from leasing their buildings to KentHOPE under pressure from area businesses.

The organization needs some support from at least one sector of the community to move forward, said Pat Gray, executive director of KentHOPE.

“We can’t fight the police, the city and the business population,” she said.

Without a building, Gray and other KentHOPE volunteers have created services for homeless people piece by piece.

KentHOPE opened a day center for women in December at a house Union Gospel Mission owned in Kent. In March, KentHOPE opened a shelter for the women who frequent the day center.

The shelter rotates between area churches and provides shuttles to and from the day center each day.



It would be great and benefit the homeless. They really need our help.

Marie Gerken | submitted on 05/19/2014, 1:05pm

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