The Thea Bowman Apartments, operated by Catholic Community Services on Kent’s West Hill, offer permanent supportive housing for veterans and homeless individuals with chronic mental illness and substance abuse issues. STEVE HUNTER, Kent Reporter

The Thea Bowman Apartments, operated by Catholic Community Services on Kent’s West Hill, offer permanent supportive housing for veterans and homeless individuals with chronic mental illness and substance abuse issues. STEVE HUNTER, Kent Reporter

King County has no plans to buy any Kent hotels for the homeless

County has made purchases in Renton, Auburn, Federal Way and Seattle

While the King County Department of Community and Human Services buys and converts hotels in a few neighboring cities into housing for the homeless, it has no plans to make a similar purchase in Kent.

“We are not currently seeking purchase of a hotel in Kent,” said Sherry Hamilton, communications director for the Department of Community and Human Services, in an Aug. 2 email. “Our Health Through Housing program is based on partnerships with cities, and we would only seek a Health Through Housing hotel partnership in Kent in consultation with Kent.”

The county has purchased hotels or apartments to house homeless at four locations in Seattle and at one site each in Redmond, Auburn, Renton and Federal Way. King County is using a new 0.1% sales tax to help pay for the program. The city councils of several cities, however, including Kent and Renton, voted to keep that sales tax within the city rather than the county collecting it.

Derek Matheson, city of Kent chief administrative officer, said he and Mayor Dana Ralph meet weekly with Leo Flor, the county’s director of Community and Human Services, and Flor has relayed the same message about hotel purchases.

“He told us the county doesn’t have plans to buy a hotel for permanent supportive housing in Kent,” Matheson said in a July 29 email.

Communication between county and city of Kent officials remains a priority after the county purchased the former EconoLodge, 1233 Central Ave. N., in March 2020 as a COVID-19 isolation and quarantine facility without informing the city or following the permit process.

Both sides later worked out that dispute, although the county continues to own the former hotel and hasn’t announced any plans for what it might do with the facility.

“We do not have a future plan for the hotel at this time, but will remain in steady communication with city of Kent leaders once the need to hold the hotel ready for COVID-19 response is behind us,” Hamilton said.

Nobody is currently staying at the facility.

“It stands ready for use as a COVID-19 Isolation and Quarantine Facility again should it be needed to keep residents and our community safe during this continuing pandemic,” Hamilton said.

City leaders want the county to sell the property once its no longer needed for the pandemic. County officials are taking it a day at a time.

“There is no plan in place for this property outside of its use for isolation and quarantine,” Hamilton said. “We will work with the city of Kent with respect to any plan for this site at some point in the future, once the threat of the pandemic is safely behind us.”

The county’s purchase of hotels in Seattle, Redmond, Auburn and Federal Way has officials looking at other parts of the county without nearby homeless housing, Hamilton said.

Kent’s homeless facility

Although the county and city haven’t opened or bought any homeless facilities in Kent, a nonprofit operates a housing for the homeless site on the West Hill.

“It’s worth noting, unlike other cities, Kent already has permanent supportive housing in the form of Catholic Community Services’ Thea Bowman Apartments,” Matheson said.

The 80-unit facility opened in November at 23920 32nd Ave. S., and houses single adults with disabilities who are moving out of homelessness, including 36 veterans.

Named after Thea Bowman, a trailblazing Roman Catholic nun who was an advocate for cultural awareness and racial harmony, the apartments offer permanent supportive housing for veterans and homeless individuals with chronic mental illness and substance abuse issues, and provides 24/7 on-site staff, according to the Catholic Community Services website.

The four-story building sits on a dead-end road northeast of the Lowe’s store, east of the new light rail line under construction and west of Interstate 5.


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