Homeless shelter expansion scrapped in SODO after community protests

A complex in Seattle's SODO neighborhood that would house hundreds more people living unsheltered, as well as treating people with drug, alcohol and behavioral health issues, has been scrapped in its final planning stages.

On Oct. 14, King County Executive Dow Constantine announced that the existing shelter in SODO (a 270-person capacity, Salvation Army-operated shelter) would remain as is and not expand, as previously planned. 

Business owners and residents in the Chinatown International District (CID) have been vocal about their concerns regarding the impacts the shelter expansion would have on their community throughout the proposal and planning process.  

"Over the past six weeks, community members have shared their feedback about the current state of public safety and other concerns in the Chinatown-International District and surrounding neighborhoods. It is clear that building trust and resolving underlying concerns about the conditions in the community today will take considerable time before we can move forward with any added service capacity. At the same time, the crisis of homelessness — and the health of every person living outside — requires urgent and immediate action. Recognizing these competing tensions, it is incumbent on King County to change course so we can utilize term-limited, one-time federal funding and invest in actionable projects in the months ahead. None of these problems will be solved without building more housing and safe, dignified shelter, and we will continue to seek out opportunities in every part of the region to bring more of our neighbors inside," Constantine said in a statement regarding the decision. 

King County Regional Homeless Authority (KCRHA) called it the SODO Services Hub. It would have been located at the corner of 6th Ave. South and Airport Way, right on the border of the Chinatown International District.

The expansion would have added: another 150 beds to the shelter, a 24/7 behavioral health facility, a lot for people living in their RVs, a tiny house village and a sobriety center that will be relocated from another shelter's location.

The existing operation, which began as a permanent Salvation Army shelter in 2021, will continue its operations over the next five years, per the lease the county signed.

In a statement, Councilmember Tammy Morales, who represents the district, said: 

"As the City Council representative for the CID and SODO, I receive this news with pensiveness. The CID neighborhood has a high concentration of low-income immigrant elders who have experienced many government harms both historically and ongoing. The rollout of information around the proposed shelter expansion perpetuated the trauma that the CID community has experienced. In my discussions with community members, they have expressed frustration with a lack of transparency with government planning processes in the neighborhood. This lack of transparency allowed for bad-faith political actors without ties to the CID, such as a conservative think tank, to co-opt the narrative and cloud organic neighborhood resistance.

The decision to increase social services in an already vulnerable and under-supported neighborhood should not have been made without community input and a proper mitigation strategy in place. There remains a need for more sanitation services, mental and behavioral health services, and shelter that meets the needs of all who are unhoused on our streets. While this expansion has halted, there remains an immense need for the types of services that have been proposed by the County. I will continue to be in conversation with Mayor Harrell’s office, the County, and the CID community around how we can improve neighborhood conditions.

At the same time, the Seattle City Council has just spent the day discussing the Mayor’s proposed budget to address homelessness. It must be unequivocally stated that we have been in a state of emergency around homelessness for 7 years in this city and county. Each night, thousands of people sleep on the streets and every year too many people are dying. We need to act with the urgency this crisis deserves so that we can best serve all our neighbors moving forward, both housed and unhoused."