Opinion

Shelter is not in downtown’s best interests | GUEST OP

The Kent Chamber of Commerce represents businesses that support and believe in Kent.

It is our mission to promote a healthy and vibrant business community. We are proud to be business owners, managers and employees in the 6th largest city in the state. Our commitment to community growth and improvement is part of what makes our community strong and successful.

While we truly believe in improving our community, we believe that locating a homeless shelter in downtown Kent at the proposed site of the Resource Center on 315 East Meeker Street does not fit our mission statement, to ensure a healthy and vibrant business community. The City of Kent Economic Development, as stated on the Economic Development webpage, shares this belief that "investment is central to the success of any venture."

The Kent Chamber of Commerce with the Kent Downtown Partnership has conducted extensive outreach to our members through surveys, meetings and public forums. It is with this outcry of feedback from our membership that we request that the City of Kent opt not to locate a homeless shelter in downtown Kent at the proposed Resource Center location.

You have heard from many businesses that have invested millions of dollars in and around downtown Kent to revitalize the area that believe that locating a homeless shelter at the proposed location will irreversibly damage their business. You have heard from businesses that have recently invested in downtown Kent, which stated that if they had known a homeless shelter was being contemplated at the proposed location, they would not have invested in the area.

The City of Kent has infused and cultivated the downtown core through their investment in Kent Station, ShoWare Center and future construction in 2012 of Kent City Center with mixed use residential and retail. Going forward with a homeless shelter in our downtown will inevitably harm Kent and all the investment and revitalization efforts that have been made.

While this issue has been controversial, we have seen an outpouring of support and passion from those serving the homeless. We urge the city to say no to the Resource Center being used as a homeless shelter of any kind, but to continue to keep the issue of homelessness in Kent at the forefront.

The Kent Chamber of Commerce looks forward to partnering with the city to find solutions. However, struggling to find solutions in a short time frame, while the business community feels threatened for their economic vitality does not create productive dialog. Please close the issue of the Resource Center as a homeless shelter so we can concentrate on the real issue at hand, assisting those in need within our community.

We understand that there are many resources in Kent to address homelessness and we offer to work with the council in identifying those resources, setting up a task force with the business community, homeless advocates and faith based groups to address this issue and identify gaps in services. The Kent Chamber of Commerce requests you make this conversation about the issue of homelessness within our community, not the building.

Andrea Keikkala is executive director for the Kent Chamber of Commerce. Reach her at 253-854-1770, ext. 140, or andreak@kentchamber.com.

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